GETTING OVER A PLATEAU
BY JANELLE HILL
We all get to the point in our fitness journeys where we finally reach our goals. For the first week, you feel amazing and accomplished for finally reaching this point. Another week goes by and you’re still excited and continue to do the same routine that helped you reach your first goal. Usually, by week three you haven’t advanced from the point you reached and don’t know why. The dreaded “PLATEAU” is something that almost everyone reaches in their fitness journey and you’re not alone. At this point, some people keep going along with their routine and accept the fact that this is how far they are able to go. Others become discouraged and quit all together because their motivation is lost. Let me share my secrets for how to get over that challenging roadblock with some tips and ideas that have personally worked for me in my own fitness journey!
set multiple goals
I do not mean 2 or 3 long-term goals, but set daily, weekly, and monthly goals. Fitness is all about winning those small battles and by having small everyday goals, your daily workouts won’t seem so daunting. An example would be maybe riding the bike at the gym on level 12 for 10 minutes. This is a challenge but it is achievable in the time frame of a workout. Also, by having more than one long term goal, you always have something to keep chasing and striving for.
Write it down
It’s time to whip out the old pen and paper. Writing your progress down in a training diary is key. What I usually do is write what I have accomplished AFTER I do it. This is good for 2 reasons: 1, You get to look back and be proud of what you have done and 2, by not writing what you have to do BEFORE, you won’t disappoint yourself. I find if you plan out your workouts too much, by the time the day comes you may not feel like working out that part of your body or are unable to do it. This can lead you to feeling disappointed or discouraged with yourself which is the opposite of what a fitness journal is supposed to do.
change up your diet
This could mean eating more or less of a certain food and see how your body reacts to it. In no means am I saying you should eat less food but switching out beef for chicken or vice versa could change how your body retains muscle. You should never “cut out food” because you want to lose weight or gain muscle. No matter what your goal is, making sure you eat enough is key to a good workout. You cannot drive a car without any gas and you absolutely cannot workout without food to fuel you.
reps and sets
The next tip is another one that helped me out of my own plateau. I changed up how many reps and sets I performed and felt immediate results the next day. “Reps” are how many times you squat or curl something and “sets” are the increments of how many times you do them. For myself, I used to do 8 reps of something, 3 times. My small change was to perform 12 reps of something, 4 times instead. You may not think this is that hard but trust me, when you’re squatting 185, an extra 4 reps means immediate noodle legs.
Switch it Up
Switching up the order of exercises is a small change but has big benefits and has worked for me in more ways than one. After getting into an exercise regime, you most likely have your go-to warm up exercises and so on. By doing this routine everyday, your body can become “immune” to it and does not find it challenging anymore. You probably don’t realize it, but these exercises have become a bit easier and the body is not pushing itself to complete them anymore. An example to switch up would be if you warm up on the stair master, get a skipping rope and to jump for 8-10 minutes. That much change of cardio is something you will notice and most likely enjoy. Another example would be if you start on bench press, save that until the end. Start with free weights instead and work backwards through your workouts. You might not be able to lift as heavy on the bench, but your muscles will be screaming in a good way.
Mind over Matter
Number six is more extreme but is guaranteed to push you to your limit. No more counting reps, go until you cannot lift or bend your leg one more time instead. The key to this is to think about “mind over matter” because although you believe you are reaching your limits, your body is capable of so much more than you are aware of. This is where most of the change to your physique takes place! Also, if you’re someone who needs some sort of structure, set a timer for 30-45 seconds and go by that. I personally love to do that for core exercises because if I only count reps for that, I do not reach my full potential.
Taking a rest day is everything. This does not mean taking the entire day off to be a couch potato, it is important to do light activity to get your muscles moving. You should NOT be working out to the point where you cannot move the next day. “Train, don’t strain” are words to live by. On the other hand, working out consists of ripping and tearing your muscles, so if you think you need to workout a muscle group every day, you’re doing more harm than good. Rest days are needed to help repair your muscles and that is where growth comes from. This can be where discouragement sets in, but remember it is impossible to progress without rest.
Change of scenery
Mixing up the location of your workouts is an easy way to keep things interesting. This could mean working out outside, a different gym or even maybe a pool setting. Some examples from my own experience are checking out different gyms and seeing what kind of equipment they have. I find joy in experiencing new equipment and interacting with new people who are also into exercising. I have also tried swimming because it is a full body workout and a new fun experience. If you're not that good at swimming, you can also try running in the pool. Riding your bike through Assiniboine Park or running sprints up West View Park (garbage hill) are more great alternatives to switch up your workout.
Follow for Inspo
Following the right fitness influencers on social media is an easy way to help inspire and motivate yourself. It’s also an great way to gain ideas for new workouts and techniques! Doing this helped me out of my plateau because I was able to see exactly how to do these exercises and how to incorporate them into my workout. Remember, it’s all about changing it up and trying new things.
one new exercise every week
In this day and age, finding a new exercise is as easy as typing it into YouTube. By incorporating something new, you could possibly reach new muscle groups that you have not before. This can help get you out of that dreadful plateau and lead you closer to your next fitness goal.
Everyone experiences ups and downs in their fitness experience and it is completely normal for that to happen. By reading these tips, I’m hoping that reaching your current fitness goals seem more attainable. Trust me, these techniques WORK! My ending note to anyone reading is not to quit, keep working hard and everyday you keep striving is one day closer to reaching your fitness goals.