You’ve taken the plunge; you are working out on a regular basis. You’ve been more faithful to your workout schedule than any girlfriend/boyfriend in the past. You are starting notice some changes and then days become weeks, the scales won’t budge you aren’t seeing any changes in your body and your resolve slowly turns to cookie-dough ice cream. You’re at serious risk of becoming another statistic, one more person fallen prey to the dreaded plateau. Somebody who decides to pack it in, accept life as a couch potato accepting that the only way you’ll ever see your toes again is in mirror.
The human body is a remarkably adaptable instrument. Once it grows accustomed to the initial stimulus of a change in diet and activity level, it may simply submit to the law of diminishing returns, decide to declare a new state of normalcy and effectively put a stop to muscle gain and fat loss.
A plateau has a snowball effect, both mentally and physically. Mentally, you become frustrated, which leads to emotional eating, fatigue and finding excuses not to workout. This either amplifies the plateau or actually causes you to backslide. Physically, if you allow a plateau to negatively impact your mindset, you produce stress, which has many well-documented ill effects on the body, inhibiting the ability to gain muscle and promoting the storage of fat.
Plateaus are essentially a form of maintenance—if you run three days a week for the same amount of time you’ll continue to hold your own in terms of health and fitness, for example, but you won’t move forward.
So what do you do now?
- Build variety into your workout. Change what you do and how you do it. Alter your routine in duration, frequency and intensity. Add more exercise, or different activities, workout at different times.
- Sometimes less is more. When you hit a plateau, it’s tempting to workout more. You may be overtraining and stalling as a result. Rest is a critical aspect of any fitness regimen.
- Alter your diet. A change in nutrition can make a difference. Most people go the wrong way, lowering calories, when sometimes raising calories to maintain weight for a week and then dropping them again is all that’s needed.
- Don’t decrease the amount you eat — food is fuel for the metabolism. Try manipulating your eating routine — have your main meal at noon instead of the evening. Eat several smaller meals rather than three big ones.
- Stay focused. Write down goals and read them every day. Have an underlying reason to achieve your goals that’s more than a superficial ‘I want to lose weight.’ Focus on overall health.
- Don’t weigh yourself every day. A static scale over an extended period of time will just increase your frustration and be disheartening over the long run.
- Consult with a certified professional. Now may be the time to schedule a session with a personal trainer to help you get back on track. Perhaps one of the reasons you are stalling is improper technique.
Be successful. Create a vision of where you want to be and stick to it. Set goals, form a plan to attack those goals and consistently take action day after day. Don’t get frustrated if you don’t advance X amount on a certain day; because it’s the long term plan (and results) that matter.