Getting Past a Fitness Plateau
Are you on autopilot when you workout? Do you go to the same gym equipment, for the same amount of time, at the same amount of intensity every time you exercise? Even if you’re accustomed to the interval settings, if you’re on the same machine day in and day out, you’re probably at a stand still in the way of making progress fitness-wise. Here are some ways to stave off boredom and keep your body getting stronger, healthier, and motivated.
Switch it Up
Shirley Archer, spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise explains SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand), "It guides our training. Studies show that in as few as 6 workouts, our neuromuscular system has adjusted to a particular stimulus." Her advice, switch it up. "If your mind is bored, your body is bored too. Mix it up." And mixing it up doesn’t mean you have to go to a new gym or stop using gym cardio equipment. Try a group class or these unique workouts to switch it up. In the gym, do 10 minutes each on the elliptical, stair climber, bike, treadmill, and rowing machine. If jogging outdoors is your thing, try interval running, mixing sprints with stints of brisk walking in between for recovery. If you’re hiking, vary your pace depending on the terrain. Trying to go faster uphill, then slower downhill will keep your body guessing.
It’s a fancy word for planning your fitness goals progressively with guidelines for intensity, time, and distance. Examples of the periodization model include P90X or a training program for a marathon. Most marathoners have a 4-month preparation phase that could start up to a year before depending their initial fitness level. For someone who’s simply trying to break a fitness plateau, training for a specific race may be just the ticket to push you past the same ole same ole. A recent study of military recruits showed soldiers’ physical fitness gains in basic training stopped during the subsequent 8-weeks of special training. The researchers point to a lack of periodization for stagnating their progress. You don’t have to be a statistic, instead learn how to outdo yourself. With a plan of attack that varies intensity, miles to run each week, as well as when to rest, your body is being challenged to do better every time. Even if you don’t actually sign up for a race, there are running clubs that whose training schedule you can follow. An added bonus to periodization is monitoring. So often we check the scale, but forget to monitor if we’re able to do more reps, carry more weight, run faster, or workout longer. With a plan in place, each workout counts.
Recovery and Relaxation
Too much exercise is unhealthy. But the definition of “how much” is different for everyone. Whether it’s job stress, overtraining, or a vacation, your mind might need your body to take a break. Although it is true that working out improves mood, for some, relaxation may be best for a short time. It’s important to ask yourself if it’s time to take a small break from your routine before you get overwhelmed. If the stress is building up around you, try meditation or yoga. If you don't plan recovery, you may get burned out. To make sure you don’t give up exercising all together, try using your regular workout time for relaxation time. This will keep you from replacing time for your body with an unhealthy habit. A week is a great time to rest, but don’t forget you’re still a calorie counter. To stave off weight gain, be a bit more careful about what you eat, and do some physical activity like stretching, brisk walking, or play recreational sports occasionally. After your rest week, you may want to jump back in with an interval workout that burns maximum calories. When you’ve given your body a break, it’ll bust through that plateau in no time.
What will you or have you done to get past a fitness plateau?