Don’t Hit a Brick Wall Prevent Your Plateau in Fitness

19 Feb

So I have been asked to talk about fitness plateaus tomorrow at the Health Expo in Needville. I thought I’d share my talk with yall here too.

Plateaus hit all of us as they are a huge factor in being human. The body gets used to doing the same thing over and over, and in life we are forced to change.  Change is really good, as you will see. What better time to talk about plateaus than right here at Lent. You see, a plateau is usually hit within 40 days – hmmm that is how long Lent is. See the parallel? Another parallel is the fact that we are about 40 days into the New Year and this is exactly about the time people start falling off the wagon in their fitness programs. And do you know why? It is that little thing called plateau. Yup – they’ve hit it. Little do they know is that if they hired a knowledgeable trainer in the beginning or read up on fitness they would know what to do when they hit that plateau. Discouragement – bye bye!

So what is a plateau in fitness? It is when progress comes to a standstill after months (40 days) of continued progress. You’ve changed all your bad habits for good ones and committed to improving your lifestyle. And then all of a sudden BAM! A halt in your progress! This occurs thanks to repetition in your fitness routine.

Our bodies are incredibly efficient and are able to adapt to any kind of work we give it. When we give it the same tasks to perform over and over again, the body adapts to the level of work and therefore becomes more proficient. Once the body gets to its optimal efficiency in performing these tasks, it requires less energy and consequently burns less calories, putting a stop to our progress. Hence, you have hit a fitness plateau. And this is when so many people quit.

So what can you do to prevent this? Well, first of all let’s ask these first questions to determine the type of plateau you’ve hit and what type of action we are going to take.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have you been overtraining or working out too much? Not getting enough rest? Working out even though you are sore?
  2. Have you been performing the same workout over and over again for the last several weeks?
  3. Have you been eating enough calories?

If you answered yes to any of these questions and you quit seeing results from your fitness program then you have hit a fitness plateau. Here are some suggestions to overcome a plateau:

  • Take time off. The number one cause of lack of progress is overtraining. Your muscles may not be able to recover and heal the tiny tears that occur in the fibers during a workout. This is why you are sore! Without rest and recovery your body responds by decreasing the amount of calories you burn while inactive in an effort to conserve energy. Rest is just as important as working out. This may come as a surprise to some of you but it is! Taking time off allows your body to fully recover and add to that new muscle growth you’ve already stimulated.
  • Add variety. You must always challenge and surprise your body. The reason your body hits a plateau in the first place is because it has gotten used to the same ole thing. Cardio exercise is important in everyone’s fitness regimen and it doesn’t matter who you are. Interval training is very important in everyone’s cardio exercise program and you should already be incorporating intervals in your program. If you don’t know what interval training is Click Here to read about it. You can always vary the way you do intervals. For example, if you’ve been doing 1 minute fast and 2 minutes rest work, you can vary that to 2 minutes fast and 1.5 minutes rest work. You can also vary the cardio activity you are doing. Instead of using the bike try water aerobics for a change. In your strength training program you can do something as simple as reversing your routine in order to overcome a plateau. This is called muscle confusion.
  • Eat More. I know I can hear you now! What? Eat More!! Are you kidding me Kathie? No I am not! Your body needs to maintain daily function and your body will either 1) use fat for fuel or 2) use muscle (protein) for fuel – called thermo genesis or “starvation mode”. I preach about that “starvation mode” thing all the time! Many people think that cutting calories to below a healthy level will speed up their weight loss by forcing the body to consume stored fat. And yes it will speed up weight loss but when they do start to eat again, and I don’t care if it is lettuce, the body will store it as fat for the next time the body “starves” for energy. The fact is your body can function twice as long if it holds onto the fat and uses the protein (your muscles) for fuel. And this is exactly what happens, causing you to lose muscle while slowing your metabolism.

So in a nutshell, hitting a plateau is a good thing. Basically your body needs rest, more food, and a change in the program to overcome the plateau. So change is good after all!! -Kathie

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3 thoughts on “Don’t Hit a Brick Wall Prevent Your Plateau in Fitness

  1. I heartily agree with all 3 tips Kathie. And I learned them from personal experience.

    I used to count calories…..until I plateaued for weeks then I said the heck with it, carbed up for a day and voila! I lost few pounds.

    Ditto on overtraining and variety. Being in iron and fitness game has taught me those lessons over and over.

    Excellent insight!

  2. Yeah Ryan, I’ll never forget when I was in class for my CFT the instructor was teaching about plateaus and he told us it was okay to take a week off and have pizza and beer all week. He was joking to an extent. But I have been training for almost 10 years now and it is true! I’ll mention that in my talk tomorrow too ;). Well I may leave out the beer part b/c it is at a church. Happy training!!! -Kathie 🙂

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