We have all been there and experienced the frustration of consistently training, eating healthy and THEN……Nothing. You are consistent with your workouts, your cardio, haven’t had a cheat meal in a month and are doing everything to the book exactly as you are supposed to so why in the world did your body change so much in the beginning and now it just seems to stay the same? Well, let’s get down to a few facts. Your body is smart and is not easily tricked. (I mean it does produce oxygen, blood, brain cells, move your digestive track and millions of sensors every hour without you doing anything so let’s give it some credit!)
This means that your body also is smart enough to adapt very quickly to a new program where it doesn’t necessarily “slack off” once it figures it out however, it does require less effort for it to perform a workout you have been doing every day for the past 6-8 weeks then it would if you completely changed things up all of a sudden. Think of it as if you were going to school at the same time every day and you followed the same process: Turn to page 5, read 3 chapters, write a summary, turn in your paper, and exit. Your brain would get used to that after a few days or even a few weeks and you could pretty much pass the class with minimal work because your brain is on autopilot. Now imagine, if you expected that and walked into class one day and your teacher jumped up and said “OK class today everyone is doing Improv speeches on a subject that matters the most to them. You get 5 minutes to prep then you must speak for a total of 20 minutes and your entire final grade will be determined by your performance”. What would happen? Your brain would kick into high gear real fast to figure out a way to make this happened because this is out of your normal routine and you have no idea how to do this!
The same analogy works for your body. Sometimes something even as small as changing the time of day you workout, doing cardio after instead of before, using cables instead of free weights, going outside instead of the gym, can be enough to cause your body to adapt again. Here are 5 Signs that you may be experiencing a plateau and need to switch it up:
1. You have been following the EXACT same workout split for longer then 4-6 weeks. If Monday has been lower body, Wednesday upper body, and Friday Lower body at the same time every week for over a month you need to switch up your routine.
2. You are no longer sore….AT ALL. Some workouts you are no going to be so sore you can’t walk, but you should feel a little bit of tightness after each workout because this means your muscles are having to tear to perform the exercise and the repair (soreness) from growing stronger. However, if you cannot even remember the last time you felt sore after a workout then it’s time to make some changes: increase your weight, lower your weight and increase your reps, reverse the order of your workout, change the time of day you workout, start performing active rest between your exercises, etc..
3. You eat the same thing every day and NEVER CHEAT. While not cheating is an excellent quality in a relationship or a test, “cheating” in your nutrition is sometimes necessary. You do not have to go eat an entire weeks worth of food in one sitting, but sometimes you do need to take a break from keeping your body on the same eating routine just like you do with your workouts. Take a break. If you always eat 1500 calories of the same foods every day…guess what your metabolism will get used to only needing to burn 1500 calories. However, if one day you consume 2200 calories then the next 1500 then 3 days later another 2200 your metabolism is constantly having to keep up with your food intake.
4. You feel unmotivated to workout. The only reason you would feel unmotivated to workout is because you are not seeing results and have lost hope. If this is the case, research some different workouts (you can check out the YouTube videos for new exercise), try working out with a partner to make it more exciting, take a group fitness class, or try out a new workout program that will keep your body challenged (you can try the ABS 12 Week Program). It is important though whenever you lose motivation that you ask yourself what it is that WOULD motivate you…and use that to find different ways to make it happen!
5. You are walking away from your workouts barely breaking a sweat. I understand that some people do not sweat as easily as others, but if you can walk away from a workout and not sweat at all then your heart rate was barely getting above a brisk walk and you did nothing to challenge your body. Sometimes you do not need to increase the length of your workouts, you simply need to increase the intensity to kick it up a notch! Challenge yourself…if you are not sweating and have time to sit and chat during your workout then get some new music that gets that heart rate going and those feet moving!
Everyone hits plateaus in fitness, nutrition and in life. The key is to learn what causes them and how to work through them…this is a journey not a short diet or dvd so see it as a chance to learn the lifestyle that works best for you.