Fitness plateau…something we all dread, but guaranteed to face at some stage.
A plateau is a stall in whatever you are trying to do. If you are trying to lose weight, you aren’t; if trying to build muscle, you can’t. You have reached a point where what you are doing is not working anymore. The reason?
Most likely your body has become accustomed to what you are asking it to do. In short, if you are not challenging it to do better, it won’t. If you keep doing what you have always done, you’ll keep getting the same results, which in this case is no progress.
So the key is to challenge your body – give it a kick in the butt – try something different. But what do you need to change?
Actually, there are several things you can change, including:
Varying how hard you exercise can sometimes kick your body into action. For example, if you typically run, try running on a treadmill so you can change the incline, thus making your body work harder. Add some stairs or hills to your weekly run. Throw some body weight sets in. Our weekly Sunday beach run incorporates about 5 kms of beach running 3 ramps and five sets of stairs…and at the top we super set push ups, dips, and sit-ups.
Order of exercise
Sometimes just changing the order in which you exercise can spur some reaction. For example, do your push-ups towards the end of your workout instead of at the beginning.
Number of repetitions
In the case of strength training, if you always lift the same amount of weight for the same number of reps for a particular move, change to more weight and drop the number of reps. Your body doesn’t like to be stressed, so it accustomed itself to a particular load by building muscle so it can handle that load. But if you load it more, buy increasing the weight, but lowering the number of reps, it will respond by building muscle so that it doesn’t have to repeat that stress again. It is called progressive overload.
Rest between sets
Mix things up by shortening the amount of rest between sets or between different exercises. Or try doing a super-set where you don’t rest between sets, but instead rest after all the sets of a particular exercise are finished.
Take a class
Try some different classes at the gym.. or if you are not a member, check out YouTube – there are literally thousands and thousands of work outs you can do at home. I have a range of work out DVDs from kickboxing, Barre, cardio, yoga and weights to keep me going when I want to change it up.
Try BeFit – one of my favourite fitness class YouTube Channels.
Change up your diet
In conjunction with changing up the exercise routine, have a look at what you are eating… are you getting enough protein, or healthy fats? Are you still having one glass of wine too many? How’s your calorie intake ?(bearing in mind the amount of exercise you might be doing). Make sure you are staying hydrated so that you are flushing toxins out of your body. Holding on to toxins will make you feel sluggish and slow down weight loss. If you’ve increased your exercise, don’t overdo extra carbs because you feel hungry – get in better fats and good protein.
Get a trainer (or a bossy friend)
A few years ago I hit a plateau so enlisted the help of my trainer to do a six week challenge to help me push through. During that time I lost 7 kilos, reduced my body fat by 10% and lost several cms from all over and was the strongest and most toned I’d been since…well pretty much ever! I chose a ketosis diet and he monitored my food intake via a daily food diary, put together a work out program with a wide variety of exercise and kept me on track..Even my best mate got on board in the form of not drinking alcohol when we were out and about. If you are already fairly disciplined with exercising but just hit that plateau than a short term program to kick start things along again is great.
I’ll note here that in general I am not an avid fan of particular programs that are “12 week this” or “21 day that” UNLESS you are fairly educated and disciplined about your food and workout. For a newbie I believe they often set the wrong expectation that all will be fixed in that time frame and they can go back to old, bad habits. If you use these tools as a way to change up your exercise routine or add to an already strong self managed program then they are great.
One more reason
One more reason why you might not be showing any progress is over-training. Contrary to popular belief, muscle growth doesn’t occur while training; it occurs during rest and recovery.
However, if you are training those muscles too frequently, they might not have enough time to fully recover. That is why fitness experts say to take a week off of training every six to eight weeks to give your body a week of rest and time to grow muscles, in addition to your normal one day of rest per week.
I get it..when you are “on a mission” this goes out the window… I mean I’ve been known to train three times a day. I’m an all or nothing kinda gal! My head tells me it’s no good (as does my body) but when I’m in that hyper-motivated space there’s no stopping me.
Because everyone is different, you may have to try a few of these suggestions before you hit on one that works for you. But work it will and it will get you back on the road to progress again.