Ah, the well known exercise plateau… It’s just the worst isn’t it? Well, maybe not. It may be the perfect opportunity to look at your exercise habits and ask yourself “what’s working and what’s not?” Plateaus are extremely common to those who exercise regularly.
First off, how do I know that I’ve hit a plateau?
Are you measuring or tracking your progress?
There are endless options to track your progress. Whether it be devices or apps, there are so many great options to monitor and track your fitness goals. If you’re not using tools like timing, heart rate monitoring, or tracking calories burned, it’s almost impossible to know the rate at which you’re improving.
Do you feel sore?
Soreness can mean a few things… it could mean you haven’t been stretching enough, or possibly you worked out without a warm-up, or maybe you’re pushing your muscles to a higher velocity and the muscles fibers are tearing. The last option is what you are ideally trying to do when you strength train. The muscle fiber tears are what cause the increase in size and strength of the muscle as it repairs. If you’re not feeling sore, your muscles may not be growing and this could mean you hit a plateau.
How are your clothes fitting?
I like to ask this one instead of focusing on weight. Your clothes are a great indicator of how your body is reacting to the type of exercise you’re doing. If you’re feeling uncomfortable in your clothes (i.e., they aren’t fitting as well as they did when you began training) this may be a red flag!
Okay, I think I’ve hit a plateau… what do I do now?
- SWITCH IT UP
I get it, it’s so easy to get addicted to one type of workout. Maybe it’s cycling, running, yoga, barre, pilates, you name it. Unfortunately, though, sticking to only one type of training can get you stuck. Your body craves movement in a variety of ways. Challenge yourself. Try that dance class you’ve always wanted to try and see how open your body feels afterward. Try a mat pilates class and notice how deeply engaging your core can make you feel just as strong as weight lifting does.
- BACK TO BASICS
This can be a great opportunity to go back to your fundamentals. Are you engaging your core when you squat? Are your shoulders pulled back and down as you bicep curl? Are you accidentally tipping forward and overextending your knee in a lunge? These minor adjustments can be huge change-makers in the quality of your results.
- LOOK LOCAL
Notice the community around you. What are other people doing? Can you get involved in a local running club or a free yoga class at the park? Connecting with others in your local community can be a simple way to reconnect with why you exercise in the first place. Making a “workout date” with a friend will leave you with double the endorphins!
Hitting a plateau is a great place to be. You can now look towards your goals and reassess your fitness strategy. Just like you have to constantly balance your work, lifestyle, and relationships, you also have to realign your exercise routine to make it the best use of your time and energy. Use this plateau as a learning experience and get out there – try something new!