The bad news is this may cause a slight delay in progress , but the good news is that typically hitting a plateau means your body is becoming more efficient at completing tasks it once used to find challenging. While you may be tempted to get frustrated and throw in the towel all together, give these three strategies a try to bust through a fitness plateau.
Get out of your comfort zone: Going to the gym banging out a 3 mile run 5 times a week may prove to be challenging initially but eventually you can expect that those same three miles run at the same pace will become easier. This is a good thing! It simply means your body is positively adapting to your demands by performing the task with less effort but don’t let the ease of the movement lull you into a comfort zone.
You know I don’t buy into the whole muscle confusion theory but I do believe that workouts need to be progressed slightly to ensure they stay appropriately challenging. Regardless of your activity, slight variations in the duration (time), intensity (how hard your working), volume (how much), load (how much weight) or even reducing rest periods can be enough to push you back out of your comfort zone and back on track.
Of course if trying a completely different activity strikes your fancy, give it a shot and shake things up.
Take a break: I know, I know. Taking a period (long or short) of rest from activity can feel counter intuitive when you’ve hit a plateau but taking a few days off to deload can have plenty of physical and mental benefits. Rest can help your body to physically recover from weeks of pushing hard and mentally refresh and recommit to your goals. Trying taking some time off and get out of the gym, guilt free knowing that the rest is just as important as the work.
Give yourself a gut check: Bad habits have a sneaky way of creeping back into our lives. A few handfuls of goldfish here, skip a workout there and before you know it these once in awhile behaviors have turned into daily habits. It's important to be honest with yourself about your actions and your abilities. Are you finishing your workouts or skipping out a few minutes early? Are you really writing down everything you eat or magically forgetting about the cookie after lunch? Did you really push yourself as hard as you could during group exercise classes or did you hold back? Even the little things can add up quickly and impede progress. If you struggle holding yourself accountable find someone who you can trust to give you some tough love when needed.
Your turn: Have you hit a plateau before? If so, how did you work through it?