From time to time, I will be posting guest articles. The following is by Paige Johnson, a personal trainer which wrote to me some time ago, requesting a spot on my blog. If you have hit this proverbial wall, as many of us do & have, this may help.
So you’ve committed to changing your unhealthy habits and working out. Your diet is on point and the workouts are a regular part of your week. At first, the changes to your body are obvious, and people are noticing — until it happens. The weight loss comes to a screeching halt, but you are still working just as hard! You’ve hit a fitness plateau and it feels like you’ve hit a brick wall. Here are some tips to kick start the positive momentum and tackle the plateau.
Give yourself credit for the meaning of a plateau
When the results slow or stop altogether it is easy to feel let down or like you have done something wrong. In reality, the plateau isn’t a sign of you doing anything wrong. It’s a positive sign that your efforts are becoming a part of who you are. It is a sign that you have changed your overall health level and your body is making adjustments. It is a new normal for you and your body is in balance.
According to the American Heart Association, the best way to break through a fitness plateau is to use their F.I.T.T. System to mix things up. F.I.T.T.= “…frequency, intensity, time and type.” Changing one or more of these components of your workout routine can mix things up enough to jumpstart the changes you are looking for in your body.
An example of a change that can have a big impact is looking at what types of fitness you are focusing on and adding a bigger variety. If you are doing a lot of running, add in some weight training for strength. Adding cardio to a workout week that is mainly weight-focused can have a similar boost for change.
Build in rest and recovery and keep things fun
When you made a commitment to get healthy, you may have gone all out and skipped a simple bit of down time to let your body recover. It is a misconception that if working out 5 days a week is working for you, then working out every day will work even better. It is possible to train too much if you are expecting change rather than just maintaining a certain level. Adding in time to rest and get adequate sleep to let your body recover can actually help to prepare yourself to improve. Like your body, your brain needs maintenance too, so opt for natural sleep, rather than using sleep aids, which can be addictive. Your body and brain will thank you, and you’ll be ready to tackle your next workout.
Rest and recovery are essential aspects of avoiding burnout. If you overdo it in your workouts, you may get tired of what you’re doing and start taking shortcuts more often or skipping days you would normally hit the gym. Another aspect of avoiding burnout is keeping things fun. Try new forms of working out each week or seek out other ways to spice things up. For example, you might take your dog with you on a hike or try a Krav Maga class with a friend. When a workout is fun, you’ll actually look forward to doing it, and that’s a great way to keep yourself on track.
Change small things to see big results
Changing too many things at once may not give your body time to adjust and make changes. It is better to change a few things like doing a larger number of reps at a lower weight than your regular lift for several weeks, Not only is it suggested that you make small changes, but it is also good to give these changes time to work. You may not see immediate jumps in progress but over a few weeks the momentum will show again.
Measure and celebrate all types of progress
Workouts or new fitness goals are usually tied to a certain magical goal of losing a certain amount of weight or something that is pretty easy to measure. Focusing on just the numbers associated with weight loss can be frustrating if you stop seeing the pounds fall off. As you workout, your body is going through a variety of changes that go well beyond just the number on the scale. Start to look at things like body measurements, changes in muscle tone, higher endurance, and other changes you will see with improved health. There is a good chance you are still seeing changes, just maybe not the number on the scale.
Taking the time to do things like a selfie each week to track visible changes can do a lot to boost your mood and keep you motivated. You may find you are still making progress, just in a different way.