Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
- Albert Einstein
A plateau means…
When it comes to plateaus, there really are only a few ways to bust them. But they involve making changes to what you are currently doing. You cannot keep doing the same thing, expecting different results. A plateau is your body’s way of letting you know that it NEEDS to stay where it is based on what you are doing NOW. In most cases, it just needs a little TLC from you in order to get back on track.
Our bodies talk to us, and plateaus are feedback.
Reasons why you might be ‘stuck’.
1. A plateau can occur when your body has reached starvation mode (or rather thinks it has). When we over restrict and exercise, the body goes into ‘shutdown’ to save itself from us. Fat is necessary for survival: it won’t give it up easily if it feels like there’s a need to keep it for later. It will slow down other processes to compensate for the deficit you’re making if that deficit is too large.
Solution: boost your calories for a few days (up to a week), and take an extra day off (or two). You need to reassure your body that things are okay, before it’ll be willing to work efficiently again. Boosting your calories can bring your metabolism back up again. No need to go crazy, but anywhere from 300-600 extra calories a day is sufficient. Re-examine whether or not your restricted calorie diet is enough for your body, and raise your calorie limit permanently if that’s what your body needs.
2. A plateau can occur when our bodies have adapted to the exercise program we’ve chosen: it becomes easier to do. Efficiency is great for the ego, but slows results: the ease of the movement means we’re working less hard to acheive the same thing. Women tend to focus too much on cardio as well, neglecting resistance training, which can burn away fat burning muscle.
Solution: switch things up! Try something completely different for a few weeks. Lift heavier that you’ve been doing, and try to include at LEAST 2-3 strength training sessions a week (or add one if you’ve already got that covered). If you’ve never gone spinning, go spinning. If you’ve never tried yoga, try yoga. Our bodies love the challenge of trying something new. Even if you keep your routine, change up the exercises: add H.I.I.T’s to your cardio (high intensity interval training) instead of doing just steady state, and add more resistance to part or all of your strength routine. Even a small increase in weight (going from 5lbs to 7lbs, or from 10lbs to 12lbs) can make a big difference. Try alternative variations of the exercises instead of the same ones: sumo squats instead of squats, curtsy lunges instead of walking lunges, and elevated pushups instead of regular ones.
3. A plateau can occur when our bodies aren’t been taken care of: you need enough sleep, to reduce stress and to make sure you’re getting proper nutrition (it’s not all about calories - you need to make sure those calories come from healthy sources).
Solution: Make sure you’re eating a variety of fruits and veggies, that you’re consuming enough protein and enough complex carbs to give you enough energy throughout the day. Boost your water intake, and keep sodium low. Be your own parent: put yourself to bed early and make sure you’re not sacrificing sleep for sweat.
4. A plateau can occur when we OVERESTIMATE our calorie burn and UNDERESTIMATE our calorie consumption. I will hold firm that it is not necessary to obsess about your calories day in and day out, but you need to be somewhat aware of what’s going into your body either as food or drink. Gym machines also don’t tell the whole story: they are not an accurate way to measure your burn.
Solution: For a few days, carefully monitor what you’re eating (in a log, or via App). See where sneaky calories may be hiding in your diet. Instead of working out longer, work smarter: use several muscle groups at a time (think lunges with bicep curls, burpees, and other combos), take advantage of H.I.I.T training and resistance exercises, and push yourself harder during at least 2-3 of your workouts (talking about intensity here). It’s not necessary to go full throttle for your whole workout, but even a few short spurts of high intensity can significantly boost your burn and after burn.
Burn Booster: Add some strength before cardio. Before cardio, get the blood pumping to all areas of your body by busting out a quick strength routine. Warm up first, then bust out a set of squats, pushups, lunges, tricep dips & at least one ab exercise for a minute each. Rest, then repeat before you start your cardio. Weights optional, but recommended.
Work smarter, NOT harder and take care of your bodies! Bods respond to healthy behaviors, and you work WITH them, not against them. Remember that you need to treat your body right to get the results you want, and listen to it when it’s giving you feedback along the way. Ignoring the whispers isn’t the way to go.
(And remember that if you’re close to your goal, weight is not the end all be all. To get the body you want, you need to train harder and add some muscle (no, not bulk: lean, toned muscle). So many women are focused on the numbers that they forget that the body they want doesn’t necessarily have a number. Those last 5lbs you think you need to lose (and are dieting to get rid of) may just be the appearance of fat that needs to be targeted through resistance and strength exercises. AND proper nutrition. Diet is important, but the body you want may need more calories and more intense training: not more restriction and the same old cardio.