5 Ways to Overcome a Fitness Plateau

You may have experienced this before:  you’ve been working out extremely hard over the past few months and you were seeing some amazing results, but after busting your butt the results just aren’t showing anymore.

Maybe you’re not seeing the following:

  • Change in weight but you were seeing a lot of change before
  • Change in diameter measurements both for decrease in waist size and increase in muscularity
  • Change in strength
  • Change in cardiovascular endurance

There are quite a few reasons why our bodies stop changing while we’re working out:

  • Adaptation: think of exercise as a challenge for our bodies.  If we keep on doing the exact same thing (running on a treadmill or elliptical, lifting the same weights, doing the exact same workout, etc…) our bodies adapt and are no longer challenged.
  • Over Stressed Physically: If we exercise too much or try and push our bodies to certain limits before it’s actually not good for our body and it will plateau.  Also think about how much activity you’re getting in on a daily basis outside of exercise and how much sleep you’re getting.  Those all have effects on how our bodies change
  • Over Stressed Mentally:  Our bodies are responsive to mental stress too.  If we’re constantly stressed our bodies divert the majority of our energy to maintaining brain and organ function.  Prolonged stress (both physical and mental) will also cause our bodies to begin storing calories as fat.
  • Nutrition:  It’s great to exercise but we also need to look at what we’re putting into our bodies.  Food is fuel.  If we’re eating a lot of high fat or processed foods it could be the culprit for the plateau.  If you’re not eating enough that could be a problem too, increased exercise means an increased energy demand for your body.  Most people don’t eat enough GOOD food for their bodies to maintain proper change!

Here’s five of  my best tips that I use to break through those fitness plateaus:

  1. Change the Exercise  Challenge:  Change your exercise like you change your wardrobe every season!  Since it’s fall, try something new: maybe swim once a week, switch up the exercises that you’re doing in your workouts, try some new workout classes, or try a new sport!  Our bodies are meant to be challenged in different ways and you’ll be rewarded with results.
  2. Back down on lifting too heavy: The common mistake when people are lifting weights to increase strength is that they lift far too for their bodies to handle.  When we reduce the weight and focus on proper form then we stimulate the right muscle groups and more muscles for the particular motion.  You may need to lift less for a while but you’ll be able to lift the same and more.  Leave the ego’s at the door when it comes to lifting weights.  Your body and everyone else around will thank you for it.
  3. Logging food and sleep:  Keep a nutrition and sleep log.  There are many apps for you phone that allow you to track both of them.  Be honest when it comes to nutrition logging and record everything from actual meals to little snacks.  Then figure out if there is anything that you need to add or subtract from your nutrition.  Make sure you get enough sleep too, the average is about 8 hours but some people need less and some people need more.  The discipline of getting rest is as important as nutrition and exercise since this is the time in which your body both builds and recovers.
  4. Stress Reduction: If at all possible try and reduce the number of things that add stress in your life.  I mentioned this before in a previous blog on the 90 day challenge with Rosemary.  Draw up a list of things that are necessary in your life and begin taking out the things that don’t matter.  Practise mindfulness, living in the here and now, this is the key to enjoying tasks and enjoying the company of others.  Exercise is both a physiological and psychological stress reduction tool since the time is focused on you and no one else.  We need to practise mindful exercise in order to use it as a stress buster!
  5. Stop looking at the numbers:  one of the most important things I tell people when they’re looking for change is to stop obsessing about it.  Stop looking at the scale every day, stop worrying about the changes in pants and dress sizes, stop worrying about what’s not happening!  Our bodies need time to grow and time to change.  We didn’t get out of shape over night so we certainly can’t expect to get in shape that way either.  Spend some time and reflect on how far you’ve gone in your healthy lifestyle and the achievements you’ve made in the past while.  Pat yourself on the back and celebrate your accomplishments because you certainly deserve it!

Remember healthy is a choice and a lifestyle.  This lifestyle takes time to adopt and see change.   The reward isn’t the change in numbers or a better looking body, it’s that we can live a more fulfilling life.

About Chris Tse

I’m a scientist turned owner of Blitz Conditioning, a Fitness Columnist at CBC Radio on Thursdays at 8:20 am, and owner of Tse Social Strategy. Follow me on Twitter or Read my full bio.

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