You’ve set your fitness goals for the season and things are going great. Eventually, however, you hit a wall and progress seems to come to a grinding halt. You’re not losing any more weight and your workouts are less effective than they used to be. Why?
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Hitting a plateau is common, whether your goal is weight loss, muscle gains or achieving a particular result. There may be many reasons that you’ve hit a plateau, but here are some ways to bust out of it and continue on your path to success.
Switch Up Your Routine
If do the same workout routine over and over again, without increasing your weight or intensity, your muscles will get used to that exercise. Running the same three miles every other day? Why not switch it up? Try running for less time at a faster pace or running that last mile at a higher pace. HIIT (high-intensity interval training), is a great way to rev up your workouts and break through your plateau, by challenging your body for intense periods. (More on this later).
More importantly, a plateau is the ideal time to try something new. Is there a Zumba class at your gym you’ve been to intimated to join? Have you always wanted to try rock climbing, but never had the guts to do it? Find a class, group activity or program that interests you to shake up your routine.
Check Your Diet
As the saying goes, “you can’t outrun your fork.” As much time as you put in at the gym, if you’re not giving your body the nutrients it needs, you may be sabotaging yourself. According to Rachel McMichael, National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) certified personal trainer, diet is the most common factor she sees when it comes to hitting a plateau.
“The biggest issue people have today is that they would rather grab a ‘diet’ this or a ‘sugar-free’ that and aren’t really reading food labels. Our bodies crave nutrients, and there are so many quick and easy ways to eat healthy while staying within a budget,” says McMichael.
You’ll undo all your hard work in the gym if you don’t fuel your body properly. Make sure that your diet is in line with your particular fitness goals, and see if there are ways in which you can ramp it up. Maybe you cut back on alcohol for a few weeks, or cut out that daily sugary treat you thought you couldn’t do without.
Don’t Skimp On Sleep And Rest Days
Sleep is absolutely essential for optimal health and fitness, yet it’s one of the major things people skip out on. According to the Cleveland Clinic, a lack of sleep can increase your hunger, as levels of leptin, an appetite-regulating hormone, fall. How many times has a poor night’s sleep caused your performance in the gym to suffer the next day? If you’re finding it difficult getting up in the morning, this might be a sign of nutritional deficiency, depression or other issues. Furthermore, overtraining and not allowing your body to rest can lead to muscle fatigue and exhaustion. Resting your muscles is just as important as getting in those workouts.
Increase Your Intensity
If you want to avoid the dreaded plateau, the last thing you want to do is jog slowly on a treadmill for an hour and call it a day. If you kick the intensity of your workout up a couple of notches, you’ll not only see more results, but you won’t even have to spend as much time in the gym as well.
“We all know that a pound of muscle burns more energy than a pound of fat, so assuming that everything else is held constant, if that person on the elliptical only varied their intensity and nothing else, they would likely start to see results,” says McMichael.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great way to kick up the intensity level of your workouts. HIIT workouts alternate between intense bursts of activity followed by less intense activity or a rest period. You can burn a high amount of calories in record time in comparison to jogging at a steady rate for an hour. You also don’t need to worry about special equipment to incorporate HIIT workouts into your routine. Exercises such as high knees, fast feet, jumping lunges and squat jacks are great to get your heart rate up fast.
Check Your Form
You always want to make sure you’re completing each exercise properly. Not only can you injure yourself, but you’re probably not targeting the muscle groups you want to work if you’re not practicing good form. Exercise in front of a mirror at the gym and make sure you’re feeling the burn in the right muscle groups. Consider enlisting the help of a personal trainer to ensure that you’re training properly.
Hitting a plateau is often inevitable, but pushing through is key for progress. If you hit a plateau, don’t feel discouraged and follow these pointers to continue seeing results.