Health clubs are filled with people who work incredibly hard and long, but then they come back the next day, the next week, the next month and the next year looking exactly the same. Here are four ways to break through those plateaus.

These days, being a “hard worker” isn’t good enough. Sure, maybe you’re the first one in the office and the last to leave. Maybe you take work home at night and don’t mind putting in time on the weekends.

But employees, employers and businesses are judged on what they are able to accomplish, not how many hours they put it or how hard they work while trying to accomplish something.

Similarly, health clubs are filled with people who work incredibly hard and long. They show up five or more days a week. They stay for two hours or more. They leave dripping with sweat, hearts pounding and muscles exhausted. And then they come back the next day, the next week, the next month and the next year looking exactly the same.

Why are these people, who seemingly work very hard, unable to lose weight, gain muscle or make other significant changes to their bodies or improvements to their health? Maybe they spend the rest of their days sitting on the couch. Maybe they have poor nutrition habits. Maybe they aren’t taking the other steps necessary for change. Whatever it is, they simply aren’t getting the job done.

Meanwhile, others have a much easier time meeting their goals. Though they don’t seem to work any harder than the first group, they’re healthier, they’re in better shape and they don’t put on unwanted body fat.

If you’re one of those stuck in the first group, spinning your wheels despite your best efforts, here are a few things you can do to help you get the job done:

1. Train smart, not long.

Marathon sessions at the gym are rarely worth the investment in time. The people who train most effectively are in and out in an hour or less. They train hard, using the most effective exercises. They don’t spend five minutes between sets talking. They are there to do a job.

Whether it’s at the gym at work or at home, the ability to focus on the task at hand is the key to not only completing that task, but doing it right.

2. If it’s not working, change it.

If you’ve been doing the same workout for years and you haven’t seen the results you desire, don’t you think you should try something new? Too often we stick with what we like, what’s comfortable, what we know we can handle. Successful people make a habit of putting themselves in uncomfortable positions, forcing their bodies and minds to adapt and to change.

Remember, the goal is to get the job done, not to keep yourself feeling safe and comfortable.

3. The real work starts when you leave the gym.

If you train hard for two hours, then spend the rest of the day eating poorly, being lazy and not taking care of yourself, you’re wasting your time. Real change in appearance, in health and conditioning requires being a healthy person the rest of the day too.

A healthy life includes eating right, getting enough sleep and being active outside the gym. Two hours of gym work can’t outweigh 22 hours of unhealthy living.

4. Refuse to lose.

The most successful fitness enthusiasts, just like the most successful business people or the best athletes, have an inner desire to succeed that fuels them. Not getting the job done is unacceptable to them. They find a way to win because it’s that important to them. They hate losing, so they avoid it at all costs.

If you want to lose weight, gain muscle or get in better shape, you must attack that goal with all your heart and mind. Being a hard worker is great, but it’s not nearly enough.

Being a “finisher” is what will separate you from the pack.

Frank Shelton is a certified fitness trainer and owner of Frank Shelton Fitness. He can be reached at (302) 463-4000 or