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How To Bust Out Of A Fitness Plateau

You’ve seen them – the peeps in the gym whose bodies just never seem to change.  They’ve sort of become like a fixture at the gym yet you can’t get over the fact that they look exactly the same today as they did last year or even 2 or 3 years ago.

Or even more frustrating, what if that person is you? If so, are you guilty of showing up at the gym and doing the same cardio; pushing and pulling on the same machines; adhering to the same rep/sets sequence as the day before? If so, therein lies the rub. Well one of the rubs anyhow. Let’s start here.

First Mistake:

Using the same machines, doing the same cardio and “phoning in” the same amount of reps/sets and exercises is not the way to achieve your ideal body!

Just as the brain loses its capability to remember or learn new things if you stop challenging and stimulating it – so it is with the body. In order to change – the body requires stimulation and muscle confusion!

How To Fix It:

1. If you always use free weights – mix in cables/machines/TRX every other workout.

2. If you always use a quick tempo for doing your sets and reps play with slowing the entire set down.  Use a 1-2 count on the concentric (shortening) and a 1-2-3 count on the eccentric (lengthening) phase of the exercise.

Or if you tend to always do super slow tempo on your exercises try using a quicker pace for a few workouts (only of course with proper form – never sacrifice quality movement for increased tempo)

3. If you feel like you are on cruise control try some Plyometrics (if you are a candidate for them) or compound movements such as a squat with a biceps curl. Or try a circuit style workout instead of a traditional 3 sets per body before moving on. Start with just a few exercises in your circuit, go through them quickly with little or no rest between then rest 30 seconds and repeat the entire circuit 1-2 more times.

4. If you always use the treadmill for your cardio – switch to the StairMaster, the Elliptical or the Rowing Machine.

5. If you always keep your heart rate in the fat burning zone it’s time to check out some HIIT style sessions.  Work hard for 30 seconds rest for 30 seconds. Repeat 6-8 times.  Or start wherever you are comfortable, maybe 20 seconds work – 40 seconds rest but whatever you do start somewhere and mix it up!

Ok, so that addresses what’s going on in the gym – but let’s assume you are doing all the above things already and your body still isn’t budging.  Let’s talk about what’s going on in the kitchen.

Second Mistake – The Food:  

You worked out hard – your heart monitor says you burned a fabulous 550 calories between cardio and weights – you’re famished and it’s time for your post workout meal.  FREEZE! What goes in your mouth right now is critical.  Don’t just grab the first handful of anything.

Or if you’re this person: You worked out hard at the gym – ate great all day but then nighttime rolls around and all bets are off. You’re out of control where night snacking is concerned.  Well the good news is there’s nothing wrong with snacking; it just depends on what’s in those snacks.

Or maybe this is your downfall: You wake up and hit the ground running – coffee and a piece of toast and you’re good to go. Nope! Coffee and toast is not breakfast! You have to retrain your body to crave food within the first hour or two of rising. You need to start your metabolism for the day and replenish your energy stores.

How to Fix It:

1. Replenish your body with a well-rounded meal that includes protein AND carbs along with some healthy fat.  Examples: Try a protein shake with a banana, a handful of kale and a tablespoon of nut butter (almond or sunflower butter rock!)  Or 4 ounces of chicken over a bed of mixed greens with a few slices of an avocado.  Who says you can’t have lunch for breakfast.

Remember: whatever goes down the hatch must be balanced and quality food.

2. Late night snack suggestions:

Out with the potato chips – in with baked kale or sweet potato chips (go easy on them though).

Out with the ice cream – in with a blended banana/blueberry smoothie.

Out with milk chocolate – in with 70% dark chocolate

Other ideas:

Veggies dipped in homemade salsa or hummus.

Sliced Apples with a tablespoon of Nut Butter.

½ Ezekiel Tortilla toasted with a slice of lean protein

Third Mistake – Rest and Recovery:

You love working out but you hate down time.  You burn the candle at both ends and sleep is a luxury. Both of these scenarios will hurt your progress.  The body can’t rebuild and replenish without proper recovery time.  It’s crucial.

How To Fix It:

Be sure to build in rest days into your workout schedule. This doesn’t have to be complete days of inactivity.  Simply dial it down a notch.

1.  If you’re always hitting the weights maybe it’s a day of easy yoga. If you’re doing a lot of sports training or cross fit type workouts maybe it’s a brisk walk on the beach or gentle hike.

2.  If you can’t seem to get enough sleep take a good look at where you can shave off some time in your day to allocate more time to this vital part of physical recovery.

3. If more sleep at night isn’t possible – try power naps.  Even just 20-30 minutes will prove beneficial. Research shows that napping can enhance everything from mental alertness to motor skills.

Start with these 3 fixes and you’ll be well on your way busting out of a plateau. Now go crush it!

Move Move. Eat Better. Forgive Often.

Rebecca Kordeki

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