How To Break Through Plateaus

by tinareale on January 5, 2012

This is a re-furbished post from my old site, but I couldn’t stand the thought of it getting buried away and not being available on Best Body Fitness. Plus, I think it’s a great post that deserves to be re-published at the start of so many new fitness goals. Enjoy!

It takes a lot of time and effort to work towards fitness related goals. When things don’t progress how you hope, an overwhelming sense of frustration can set in. I understand and relate all too well. Plateaus used to throw a wrench in my goals time and time and time again. Over the years, I learned more about my body and effective ways to approach plateaus – to either keep them from happening or karate chop them out of the way when they would hit.

First up – I feel the need to clarify what I deem a plateau. I think a plateau occurs when ZERO changes happen for an extended period of time – in my opinion, close to a month. You may not notice a change on the scale but can definitively fit better into your clothes? Not a plateau. You may only see a pound loss on the scale each week for a few weeks instead of the two pounds you were seeing? Not a plateau. I consider a plateau a lack of progress on all counts – ZERO change even after allowing your body the time to catch up with your efforts and make changes.

Now that we have that straightened out we can focus on the ways I avoided plateaus during my personal transformation and the steps I took when I found myself in one.

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Have Room To Progress
I never quite understand the notion to nose-dive into a fitness plan with the top intensity, highest level of dietary restriction, or most challenging plan from the beginning. That can only lead to burn out. If you have super human will power and avoid burn out, then your body will eventually adapt…and then where do you go? I like to start with the smallest of changes so I can build up habits, remain consistent with them, and have options to tweak the plan as my body grows stronger.

Take A Break
Allow the body to take it easy on workouts for a week. Eat a bit more. Don’t stress over goals. By the end of the break, you should feel rejuvenated and ready to take on your goals with a new, stronger intensity. The stress from eating less, working hard, or just fretting over goals can inhibit the body’s progress greatly. So, by allowing the body rest and recovery, it can regain momentum and reciprocate with future progress.

Look Closely at the Little Details
Sometimes the small things we do add up to make a bigger impact than we imagine. We know that our training and eating habits have an impact on progress and will readily look to them when facing stalls. However, we also must consider our other habits. Take a look at the other details of your health to determine what areas can use any improvement. Are you drinking enough water? Are you getting enough sleep? Are you staying active in other ways throughout the day? Are you stressing too much? Are you facing hormonal changes? Those things have key roles and need to be in order for progress to happen.

Track It

It doesn’t need to be drastic, but a few simple protocols can help you get back on track to your goals. Measure your food to make sure you are taking proper serving sizes. Count calories for a week or two to see if there any areas to tweak. Stay mindful of extra bites of food while cooking. Pay attention to help prevent any subtle habits that could be derailing your efforts.

Add Another Gear
Up. The. Intensity! Try to push yourself out of your comfort zone to maximize results and get the ball moving again. When the body gets into a routine, it can easily sail through workouts out of habit. To avoid this, try to mix up or increase the challenge of your workouts every 6-8 weeks. You can either try something new, add in more intervals, shoot for new distances, vary up your strength training routines, or pull out workouts that always challenge you in a good way. Work harder and smarter.

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Ride It Out With Positive Thoughts
If all else fails, you simply have to stay positive. If you know you have done everything possible to keep a balanced approach to eating, training, and caring for your health, then you can only be patient. Respecting your body will bring it just where it should be for health. Let it happen naturally. Picture your goals and keep working hard. Surprisingly enough, staying positive and committed ends up bringing the desired results down the line. After all, when reaching this point there are only two options: to either keep chugging away with determination or give up and say forget it. One of those choices won’t help you achieve your goal…so why not just dig deep, ride it out, and trust? It can only bring positive results.

  • What tactics do you use when facing plateaus in your goals?

{ 13 comments }

1 Lisa Eirene January 5, 2012 at 5:26 pm

I’ve had several plateaus. Most of them were the result of doing the same activity. Changing my workout routine usually does the trick!

2 Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table January 5, 2012 at 5:36 pm

I find 2 things to be key: shaking up my routine every 30 to 60 days and diet. Some people need more carbs, some more protein, some more fats…. don’t be afraid to play with it and find out what works best for you!

3 tinareale January 6, 2012 at 7:33 am

Totally agreed! When training towards fitness comps, I thought I had to do low carb. That just makes my body rebel. I actually lose easier when I eat more carbs because my body works more efficiently. Thank God, too! Love me some carby goodness. ;)

4 chelsey @ clean eating chelsey January 5, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Great tips! I remember hitting a plateau for MOOONTHS when I originally lost weight!

5 Lindsay @ biking before bed January 5, 2012 at 8:01 pm

I love you one about changing up your workouts ever 6-8 weeks. I am always amazed at how quickly my body can adapt to things. I much prefer biking over running. While I can bike 40-50 miles easily, running over 5 is so tough! Many “runners” feel the opposite. I have to force myself to run, but when I do it feels so good!

6 Lauren January 5, 2012 at 8:07 pm

Love these tips. I think it’s so important to switch things up. I used to only run. Every single day and that was it. My body became so adapted to this that it never got stronger or faster or more fit. It wasn’t until I backed off and focused on other forms of endurance and strength that I started to see MAJOR changes in my body. We hear it all the time but it’s so true!!!

7 Erica January 5, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Great post! I’m still in my Plateau…I think I need to take a break and then kick it UP !

8 tinareale January 6, 2012 at 7:35 am

I would do that often in my post baby journey. Scale back a week to let my body refresh…then switch it up with some new challenges to push out of my comfort zone. Worked for me every time! ;)

9 Brittany @ GOtheXtraMile January 5, 2012 at 8:19 pm

Loved this post. Such great information!

10 lindsay January 6, 2012 at 3:03 am

you know, taking a break actually makes you appreciate it more when you can, right? Good call!

11 Khushboo January 6, 2012 at 7:43 am

Tracking is definitely a sure-fire way to get rid of a plateau! All those BLT’s (Bites, Licks & Tastes) are so easy to add up without us even realising! Write it, then bite it :)

12 Heather @ Better With Veggies January 6, 2012 at 2:50 pm

When I find myself hitting a plateau, I try something new. If you’re a runner, how about adding some yoga? Or sign up for a race of a different distance than normal. Or go rock climbing. Something different than your body is used to.

13 Mike January 8, 2012 at 4:43 pm

You’re dead on with notching up the extra gear. It helps me think in a different direction than same-old, same-old. And it pays off in unexpected directions.

I love Heather and Lindsey’s switching it up. I definitely prefer biking, but running is way more convenient. When I’m working out in different ways (ice skating these days), I plateau less. Plus, I’m feeling good because I’m sure to make progress in one area or another.

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