Shari Duncan

Fitness Plateaus: How to get your body out of cruise control.
Shari

by on Nov.13, 2011, under Fitness, Motivation, Weight Loss

“… There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”  Bruce Lee

Workout plateaus are nothing new.  You are hitting the gym routinely. You feel more energetic and look better, but  suddenly now you‘re not feeling the burn anymore.  The scale stops moving and your body becomes immune to the stress of exercise.  You have hit the wall.  Fortunately, it usually only takes a few changes to overcome a workout plateau.

The key to overcoming plateaus is change.

Changing up just a few things can make a big difference.  Our bodies are highly adaptive and are constantly working to maintain homeostasis—so the workout that was so challenging and making you sweat and burn calories 6 weeks ago is no longer.   Changing your approach or routine will help you blast through frustrating plateaus. Remember the body acclimates to repeated challenges, making it necessary to make changes every four to six weeks.

A few suggestions from Web MD:

Pump it up. Instead of 40 minutes on the treadmill, pump up your metabolism with high-intensity intervals. Do four minutes of any cardiovascular exercise as hard as you can; then two minutes of strength-building exercises (using free weights or weight machines). Repeat this “harder/easier” cycle five times. (The magic cardio-to-weights ratio is 2-to-1.) Your

Change workout activities, intensity and break through plateaus.

post-exercise metabolic rate and fat loss will increase much more than if you exercised 40 minutes steadily at an average pace, and you’re also building lean muscle mass.

Shake it up. Walking doesn’t do much to help you lose weight, even though it’s good for your health. Instead, mix up your cardio intervals by throwing in new things every week: the elliptical machine, the recumbent bike, the rowing machine, the stair climber. Keep your body guessing.

Start it up. The one time when simple aerobic exercise can really boost your metabolism is in the morning. When you first wake up, your liver has burned through your carbohydrate stores, and light aerobic exercise can jump-start the fat-burning enzymes in your liver. So start your day with a brisk walk.

Count it up. You might think you’re not snacking between meals, but it’s easy to miss the bites of your kids’ leftovers you take here and there. For a few days, record everything you eat. Make sure the extra food you take in is accounted for — either by cutting out your dinner roll or by doing an extra high-intensity interval.

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*Varying your activities or cross-training is important to avoid or break through plateaus.  But while changing up type of activity is important, it is also important to implement variations in intensity.

Specify different days of the week as low, moderate or high-intensity days.  Grab a new partner to work out with. Get out of the gym and move your workout outdoors.  The mix-up of activities will also keep your workouts enjoyable, thus helping with motivation as you break through the wall.

And if you’re not strength training, now is the time to start.  A pound of muscle burns more calories than a pound of fat.  And you want to replace fat with muscle to increase the amount of calories you burn a day.  If you are already lifting and have hit your plateau: You MUST step up the intensity of your strength training program. Bump up the frequency of your training from twice to three times a week. Increase the amount of weight you’re lifting to challenge your muscles even more or try a more challenging exercises.

But plateaus do not necessarily mean you need to work harder or spend more days at the gym. It may be time for an active rest.  Proper rest and recovery from working out is so important, it may just be the deciding force behind results and no results.  Consider taking a few days, to up to a week off from structured exercise, and instead take leisurely walks, play ball with the kids, or take a yoga class. Active rest rejuvenates the mind and the body and allows for overworked muscles to rest and rebuild. You will return to exercise stronger and ready for new challenges.

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