The view from a natural plateau…pretty. The view from a plateau in your exercise progress…not so much. If you’ve never reached a plateau, congratulations. You will. Everyone does. The challenge is not to let the frustration—and, let’s face it, the boredom—of halted progress stop your ongoing pursuit of fitness and health.
Why do plateaus happen? It’s not because you’ve slacked off. You’re probably still doing everything you’re supposed to: maintaining your exercise routine, eating what you should and getting enough rest. But bodies are smart. They adapt to your lifestyle improvements, making them the new normal. So now you need to make some changes. Here are some fairly simple techniques you can use to keep moving forward.
Change up your routine. Increase the intensity of your current routine, or try something new. For instance, try adding 5-10 minutes to your daily walk and see if you notice a difference. On the treadmill, up your speed a bit or add a slight incline. When weight training, try fewer reps with slightly heavier weights or more reps with lighter weights. If you’ve always used free weights, ask your trainer about using a kettle bell, resistance bands or machine weights. Each type of weight has a different balance and purpose. If you usually use weights, try adding a session on an exercise bike. Make sure you speak with a professional trainer how to correctly use new equipment. Change your routine safely to avoid injury.
Take a break. Don’t become a couch potato, but remember rest days are essential. Taking a break means getting enough rest to let your body recharge. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. There’s a clear link between sleep and fitness. Research shows that lack of sleep negatively affects performance and adequate sleep improves performance. While you’re changing types of exercise, make sure you get your zzz’s.
Try something new. Add a new or different type of exercise. If you’re a runner, try a Pilates or yoga class. If you do yoga, try a dance class like Zumba. Not only will changing your exercise give your muscles a new challenge; it could also prove refreshing to your appetite for activity. It’s fun to try new things!
Remember, plateaus happen to everyone. Try not to get frustrated and remember, it won’t last forever!