It is such a frustrating feeling. When you are working out hard at the gym and pushing yourself toward greater achievement, a Plateau is like an unwanted houseguest who never leaves. A plateau is that period of time when you feel there is just no change: no new muscles, no new notches on the belt, nothing. On some level you have to anticipate that the progress will ebb and flow. But a plateau -- what could be an extended period of time when nothing, NOTHING changes -- is an incredible psychological burden. And like those guests, you keep thinking tomorrow will be the day, only to be met by Cousin Jack lounging in his underwear on the sofa and binging on Netflix with no talk of taxis to the airport.
So if the plateau is an expected but undesired part of the process, what can you do to get off the plateau and continue your climb to greater and greater heights? I mean, after all, that's why you go to the gym and push yourself, right? Just as I have no problem telling your cousin to put on his pants and leave, I have Four Keys to getting off the plateau.
- Don't blame yourself. It's not that you are undertraining. Heck, you might be overtraining. Either way, it's important to understand the process. Your body will change when you challenge yourself, but your body is also seeking stasis, a bit of level ground where your exertion level can be kept at a minimum even when you are pushing hard. Without that ability to find stasis, the next step could be injury, so, in that sense, the plateau is actually beneficial. The important thing is: Don't blame yourself. You are not weak and you are not lazy (unless you are being lazy and not actually trying to exercise, but that is a different article and a different list).
- Mix it up. Trying new workouts, something that you wouldn't ordinarily go for. If you are normally a runner, try a boot camp classes. If you enjoy yoga, try Zumba. You get the idea. The change will cause your body to adjust and you'll find yourself working just a little bit harder, and that little push may be enough to help create a new climb off the plateau. You can always go back to the stuff your really love, but that fresh input will do wonders.
- Go over your Healthy and Fit Checklist again. Have you been resting on your laurels, allowing yourself a little more freedom in other departments? Is "cheat night" becoming "cheat weekend"? Are you still getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, thinking happy thoughts? Sometimes, if you hit a period of success in working out, if the achievement of your goals is becoming a bit more of a reality, it is easy to forget what brought you to this point to begin with. Healthy habits take a back seat because, hey, look how far you've come. And that's fine. But if that is the case, then the plateau is simply a result of not thoroughly engaging and following through. Give yourself a quiet moment and reflect on all the things that got you going to begin with and, step by step, get yourself back on track.
- Do not use the Plateau as excuse. As I said, the plateau is a normal occurrence. That doesn't mean you stop working. Don't give up, don't throw your hands in the air with a shrug, don't throw in the towel. Don't. Don't. If you have come far enough to have Plateau, you are MORE than capable of working past it. But if you stop the process, you may find yourself headed back to the base of the mountain. And, as tough as it was to do it the first time, trying to get excited to do it a second time is excruciating. Just buckle down, check the list, change what you need to change and get to work.
As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact me at Michael@fitnessgurunyc.com.