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Fitness Plateau -- How To Break Through

As Michelle Magnan noted in an article in the Calgary Herald, it is all too common for your fitness level to "plateau."

A fitness plateau is when your progress comes to a halt. You aren't getting better. And you aren't getting worse.

For 10 years, I lifted the same amount of weight at the gym, I ran the same length of time on the treadmill and I ate the same kinds of food for breakfast and lunch.

No wonder I hit what's known in the fitness world as a "plateau," a point where my body stopped changing.

So what's the problem with the fitness plateau? The problem is that if you're not improving, you're probably going to start to deteriorate.

You've seen it happen. You gain a few pounds over the holidays. You notice your belly is a little bigger than it used to be. You start to notice a double chin.

Why? Because nothing really stays the same. After your teenage years, if you aren't actively working to improve yourself, you are going to go downhill.

I wasn't trying to lose weight, but I did want to get leaner, stronger and faster -- and nothing was happening.

So how do you continue to improve? Well, when you have an exercise program you have to make some changes to the program.

You can't just walk 30 minutes on the treadmill and think you are going to get any results. Your body easily gets used to the treadmill workout. So your body gets more efficient. You burn fewer calories. There is less of a stimulus for muscle growth.

And the result? Next year you have not reached your weight loss goal. You're not in shape and you are unhappy with your results and you don't understand why. You've hit the fitness plateau.

According to Stan Peake, an Innovative Personal Fitness trainer plateaus happen because our bodies are always trying to conserve our energy or "to find a state of homeostasis or maintenance."

For example, says Peake, if you run five kilometres day in and day out, your body knows what to expect, so it plans to conserve as much of your energy as possible.

"Your body will burn the minimum number of calories possible to get you through that activity, if it knows what you're doing, thinking that it's helping you for survival," he says -- a survival instinct that's reminiscent of the cavemen days.

Now, here is where a lot of trainers and athletes get it wrong. They say you need to change your workout every few weeks to keep getting results.

The usual recommendations are to switch from weight training to body weight exercises. Or from treadmill to sprints.

That's fine. But it really misses the point.

You don't have to stop doing weight training to change your workout. And you don't have to stop the treadmill if that is what you like to do.

So how do you keep from hitting a plateau? The easiest way is to keep a record of your workouts. Use a notebook. Write down what you did. The number of repetitions. The number of sets. The weight you used.

And then next workout do your best to improve on last time. Increase the weight on the first set. Increase the repetitions.

On the treadmill write down the time. The speed. The elevation.

Next workout, change something. Raise the elevation on the treadmill. Increase the speed. Challenge yourself.

You have to do something to challenge your body to do more. It has to be an increase in volume or intensity. You have to stimulate growth.

You should try to surpass your last workout every time you hit the gym.

And if you do, any thoughts of hitting a plateau will be a thing of the past.


Where to start:

There is a lot of information on this site. The links below will get you off to a good start.

Most popular pages:

These are some of our most popular pages. They are also some of the most helpful if you are finally ready to lose weight.

You can always reach us:

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  • Clearwater, FL 33761
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