Before you inhale that bag of cookies to console yourself, realize that weight loss takes work, and isn't always perfect. But that there are plenty of ways to re-energize your program along with your motivation, to bust through your weight loss plateau.
If you’ve been exercising and cutting calories for several weeks, and you’re no longer seeing the same results that you experienced in the beginning, then you’ve probably hit a plateau. This occurs when your progress comes to a standstill, and can be described as not making any “gains” (such as improving your fitness level or losing weight), but not necessarily moving backward (losing endurance or gaining weight).
Because every individual is unique, there’s no way to actually predict when a plateau might happen. However, the following principles of nutrition, rest, and variation will jump start your body, mind, and metabolism.
With just a little tweaking, you’ll be in your skinny jeans in no time!
Incorporate variation into each workout. Variety is critical because your muscles become very efficient at the exercises they are accustomed to doing. Switching things up or doing something radically different during each workout session is more challenging to your muscles. This concept should be applied to both and strength training.
An individual who always does the same exercises will usually plateau sooner than someone who continually makes changes. If you don’t feel comfortable doing a different workout each time you hit the gym, try to change your at least every 6-8 weeks. Changing your routine is crucial to keeping your body/muscles surprised. They'll have to work harder, you'll be challenged, and you'll burn more calories and build more lean muscle in the process.
Change your cardio activity:
- Change the type of exercise you usually do. The possibilities of aerobic exercise are endless. If you walk, try cycling. If you take kickboxing, try the elliptical. Consider adding some of these possibilities to your routine: running, jogging, walking, elliptical machine, swimming, cycling, indoor exercise, outdoor exercise, hiking, fitness videos/DVDS, group fitness classes like kickboxing, aerobics, spinning, stair steppers, etc.—anything, just change it up!
- Change the duration of your workouts. Try to increase your minutes as you become fitter, and occasionally, try a shorter (but more intense) workout.
- Change the intensity of your workouts. This is something you can play with on a daily basis. This includes working at an incline or harder level, sprint work, distance work, maintaining intensity, or interval work (shifting between fast/hard and easy/recovery intervals).
Change your Strength Training Routine:
- Change the mode of exercise. If you are using machines, move to free weights. If you are using body weight, try resistance bands. If you are doing free weights, add a stability element like a BOSU ball or stability ball. Try doing exercises while balancing on one foot or switch between any and all of these.
- Change the exercises you actually do. If you have been doing chest press, change to a chest fly or use the pec deck machine. Think of an alternative exercise for each muscle group and you’ll have an entirely !
- Change your resistance level and/or number of repetitions. Be sure to increase your weight regularly. Make sure you are lifting to fatigue with each set. If you typically lift 12-15 reps, try doing 8-10 (with a higher weight) or vice versa. Play with your weight and reps in each set. Try lifting (as an example) 25 pounds for 15 reps, then 30 pounds for 12, then 35 pounds for 10 reps on your third set. You can also do it backwards, starting with high weight/low reps and working the weight down.
There are lots of ways to add variety to your workouts—and it's SO important that you do, to continue losing weight and improving your fitness level. By always challenging yourself, you will avoid hitting a plateau in the first place, and overcome the one you're stuck in now.
The principles of nutrition, rest and variation all work closely together. When not followed properly, they can instigate a negative snowball effect: Repeating the same exercises can cause over training, which leads to plateaus and an inability to sleep. Lack of rest hinders you progress, making recovery take much longer, especially if you are not well-nourished and hydrated.
The human body is amazingly adaptable. By making a few changes in these areas, you can jump start your routine and see those positive results in no time.
I practice what I preach here, as I hit a plateau recently for three weeks. I knew that I had become comfortable in working out. My routines were well routine. I did the same class on Monday's and Wednesdays ZUMBA. I did YOGA on Saturday mornings and I would walk on the treadmill or track on the other days. 10 days ago, I began swimming laps. I have finally begun to lose again. So it does work. Most important thing is to not get discouraged or lose your motivation.
I was frustrated, and upset that the scale was not moving, but I can see differences in myself even when the numbers weren't dropping, so things are shifting, rearranging if you will. Nichole and I take our measurements today. It has been one month since we took our 1st ones. It will be interesting to see if there has been any changes. I will let you know what I find out.