Whether the overall fitness goal is to get big, get lean, build strength or endurance, burn fat, or gain muscle, nothing batters our workout motivation harder than hitting a plateau. As frustrating as it can be when you fail to see a change in the weighing scale or in inches for weeks, do not give up on your gym membership just yet. Chances are you might only need to make a few adjustments to spur your fitness back into progress mode.
A good workout falls somewhere between familiarity and absolute acclimatization. Your body should be familiar with a series of exercises to perform with good technique in seamless succession only to move on to a higher level of difficulty once you start getting accustomed to the routine. As in, aim to move on before you can perform an entire workout with virtually no discomfort.
Following are a few strategies to avoid hitting a plateau. Consider implementing the adjustments bit by bit to generate a workout challenge that is engaging but not overwhelming.
Once you start focusing on performance, you will stop fretting over numbers. Not only will you start having more fun that will divert your attention away from the scale, but your workouts will also become more productive.
- Track and change – workout with intention, do not just go through the motions
Whether you exercise for ten minutes or two hours, train your mind to enjoy every movement with a strong mind-muscle connection. Progress comes from challenge. So, get a trainer to modify your routine every 2-3 weeks.
Apart from switching exercises occasionally, change at least one variable of resistance, repetitions and rounds every week. Closely track the weight you lift within each repetition range, whether you are lifting for 5 repetitions to build strength or 30 repetitions to maximize the burn and develop endurance. Shifting rep range will also expose weaknesses in your exercise technique if any, as lifting varying amount of weight demands a different degree of physical control.
Similarly, for cardio alter between high intensity, moderate pace and low impact frequently. Aim to improve upon your time for distance covered or calories burnt. In case, you are an avid runner, do not always run the same trail or distance every single day. Change something and monitor the after effects.
- Distractions too many – Steer away from all the elements that might be making you rest way too long in between sets
Sometimes, we all need a little help keeping us accountable. So bring a workout partner along, or not if all you do is talk. The gym might be the ideal environment to get some exercise and reconnect with your physical instincts but it is still replete with distractions. In between sets, if you walk over to gaze at the nearest television on the wall, start dabbling on your cell phone or find yourself rapt in casual conversations, you are simply not working out with efficiency.
- Start looking beyond the fun
Dance, Boot camp, Yoga, Pilates or weights, you have finally found an activity that you enjoy and works for you. Once you have established your routine take out time to consider which are the body parts or movements you dislike training the most. Chances are those are your weakest links withholding holistic fitness. Leaving the exercises that you find most unpleasant for last could mean that you will probably end up skipping them altogether. Prioritize training them first, even if only one repetition at a time, and follow up with what you find the most enjoyable part of daily exercise.
Meal planning is another aspect that might feel painfully tedious. However, it is a good idea to seek help and information to critically reevaluate your diet and design a basic structure in terms of number of meals, timing and minimum nutrition requirements. Having a good meal plan to fall back on will save you from the aftereffects of any decadent binge that you might find difficult to get out off.
- Keep updating your workout base with new movements
If you do not attempt new exercises for fear of looking foolish, you might be wasting away the potential to make delightfully huge leaps in your strength and endurance. For instance, if you have always trained with barbells and dumbbells, then consider mastering a few full body compound movements with kettlebells, popular for offering time efficient workouts.
Bored of same old crunches and leg raises? Adding even merely one new movement with a stability ball might engage your abs like never before. If you have always trained on machines then perhaps it might be time to test your mettle using your own body weight.
To start with, always seek the supervision of a trainer you trust who can teach you to execute an unfamiliar movement with perfect form. Ask a friend to join in for added reassurance.
- Find yourself a program – nothing like a good 12 week plan to stay on track
Putting together a few exercises randomly for each body part every other week might lead you to train some body parts harder than the others, which might ruin your overall symmetry in the long term. Ask your trainer to put together a 12-16 week exercise program or do some research and find one online that co-relates to your personal fitness goals.
Most generic programs tax and engage the entire body equally. They strategically leave space for recovery and even recommend the kind of nutritional support required. Completing a good exercise program from start to finish will make you learn more about your strengths and weaknesses in a couple of months then you might ever become aware of by training haphazardly for years.