Written by Stephanie Dane
Whether your goal is weight loss, muscle gain or increased endurance… everyone hits a plateau at some point in their fitness journey.
Results stop. Frustration enters. And we enter a crossroads of throwing the towel in or making a change. But WHAT change should we make?
The first thing to establish is what a “plateau” actually is, in the world of fitness. A plateau is experiencing a significant decrease or complete halt in the results of your regular workouts and nutritional efforts.
While hitting these “walls” in our journey is frustrating, they CAN be overcome.
GOOD NEWS: Our bodies adapt quickly to our efforts.
NOT-SO-GOOD NEWS: Because our bodies quickly adapt… our workouts must continually evolve to keep the body guessing and the results coming.
Here are 4 tips on how to prevent or even help break out of a plateau!
Increase the intensity, NOT the duration. Have you been walking or running the same distance, at the same pace, and burning about the same amount of calories (or less!) for a few months (or longer?)
Have you been lifting the same amount of weight for the same amount of reps for longer than a few weeks?
The longer we do something, the better our body acclimates. Our bodies are amazing machines. They adapt quickly to meet the demands we place on it. Instead of adding on MORE time or MORE distance to your cardio routine… increase your pace, bump up the machine’s incline or resistance, or add some hill work to your outdoor routine.
Increasing intensity a few notches will elevate your heart rate, encourage the body to work harder, and thereby allow you to burn more calories. And you didn’t even have to make MORE time to workout in your already busy schedule (#DoubleWin).
Another option is to add short intense bursts into your workouts. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is an effective way to add intensity into your routine without adding a bunch of extra time. If you primarily strength train, consider adding 30-60 second HIIT movements after each set or superset. With endless options to choose from, you can select the ones that best suit your needs in terms of any physical limitations, space or equipment restrictions, etc.
*Some HIIT movements include jumping jacks, burpees, box jumps, lung jumps, squat jumps, kettlebell swings, speed skaters, medicine ball slams, mountain climbers, jump rope, knee highs
SWITCH UP your workouts. Whether it’s changing up your split (the body parts you work on certain days, or the exercises you do to work that muscle group), slight changes such as these go a long way in pulling the body out of its state of complacency. Our body’s are smart. They begin to sense routine.
WEIGHT TRAINING: If your split looks something like this:
…. it knows that the next workout coming is legs.
Don’t be afraid to switch it up! Simply moving that leg workout to mid-week will have your body thinking “Hey now.. I wasn’t expecting this.” And work harder to accommodate this new change. Same goes for the specific exercises you do. It you use the chest press machine, perform that same exercise using free weights. If push-ups are a normal part of your routine, perform medicine ball push-ups or decline push-ups.
CARDIO: The same rule applies here.
If the treadmill is your go-to…. try the bike, rower, elliptical, or stepper or take your workouts outdoors.
Treadmill Lovers: No need to stop using your beloved piece entirely.
Outdoor runners/walkers: No need to take your workout inside all-together. But even changing 1 or 2 weekly workouts to something new will help break that plateau.
STOP Stressing. We know it’s frustrating when you’ve stopped making progress toward your goals, but what will NOT help bypass a plateau is stress. It’s common for stress to hinder weight loss. Stress increases cortisol levels, which can also increase belly fat storage. It’s important to note that this effect seems to be stronger in women. Producing too much cortisol can make weight loss very difficult. Get a massage, take a yoga class (increased flexibility is another bonus to yoga), meditate, journal your thoughts, talk to your coach, or even simply take a rest day…. which leads us to our last point.
REST. When you hit a wall in your journey, sometimes the immediate thought is to DO MORE, PUSH HARDER… when it’s quite possible your body is slowing down because it doesn’t have ample time to recover. Everyone needs rest days. They are a good break for your not only your body to recharge, but your mind as well. Think of your muscles the same as your energy. During the early part of the day, most people have their most energy; they woke up after X hours of sleep. As the day progresses and into the night… you slow down. At some point, your body says “It’s time for bed.” So you go to bed.
Your muscles are no different. They NEED time to rest, repair and rebuild. Without any time to do so, they might keep working for you… but they will work at a fraction of their true potential. If you find that your energy is down, your workouts don’t have the same power as they originally did…. take this as a sign to re-evaluate your routine and ensure you’re giving your body the rest it deserves.
NOTE: this directly coincides to the importance of getting enough sleep every night. Lack of sleep is also a large factor in stalled progress. National Sleep Foundation suggests 7-9 hours per night. For more on specifics per age group, click here!
Do you wish you had someone to REALLY support you FULLY to reach your goals through:
EXERCISE (specific to your unique life!),
NUTRITION (specific for your unique body and goals!)
Accountability and mindset coaching
An approach that takes your long term health and lifestyle into account
Peer support from other like-minded women?
Through the unique sisterhood of our Sisters in Shape online client/coach community, women are changing. We know that our affordable, balanced and fully CUSTOMIZED approach to helping you crush your goals is what you've been looking for.