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OVERCOMING A FITNESS PLATEAU

INSTANT GRATIFICATION

is certainly alive and well in our culture today. It is fueled by modern devices and immediate access to information. I don’t believe that it is all bad, but it may interfere with timely and realistic expectations.

The journey to fitness and good health does not fit well within one’s impulsive quest for immediate results. I have known people who want to “go to the gym” because a beach trip is imminent. Others rely on tummy tucks and similar quick (and expensive) fixes.

New fitness devices or supplements promise significant results without the “sweating” and lack of comfort associated with working out. I can somewhat relate to this, since I am a “sucker” for hair regrowth products. (They don’t work).

Anyone who has consistently done fitness training will know for a certainty the following:

  • Results will be forthcoming
  • They will generally vary with effort
  • They will not be immediate
  • There will be pitfalls
  • Results will justify the effort

WHAT IS A FITNESS, WORKOUT OR WEIGHT LOSS PLATEAU ?

I am experiencing one now, of a sort. The notion of getting on my treadmill for a boring 30 minutes does not appeal to me now. Nor does the idea of sweating through my abdominal routine or straining through my upper body workout. My energy is lacking. I also have a cold. Maybe I got the cold by overworking my body. Maybe the cold is why my usual routines do not interest me. My fitness gains have leveled off and I am at a plateau.

Instant gratification does not apply here. This may be a psychological plateau. But I know that after a few days of rest and maybe a doctor’s appointment, I will be energized again.

A better explanation of a fitness plateau:

  • It may be simply that initial gains have leveled off in a normal way
  • Or our bodies may have become accustomed to the same stimuli
  • Or we may be “victims” of our own success and may have unrealistic further goals
  • Or lack of sleep may be an issue
  • Or poor nutrition may be the cause

Whatever the reason, we are doing generally the same training but without the same results. Our line of progress is not a hill nor a valley. It is a plateau. We are stalled.

HOW DO WE BREAK THROUGH ?

First, we need to be realistic. We can’t expect to lose 2 pounds of weight or increase our resistance by 5 pounds each week. Progress inevitably slows down. We should expect this and should not “freak out”.

But if we have gone 2 -3 weeks without desired increases or decreases (depending on our goals), we may want to consider some changes. Here are some suggestions:

TAKE A BREAK – Rest for 5 days to a week. No workouts at all. Let your muscles grow. They don’t grow from the constant and grueling stress. That is when they are torn down. “Listen” to your body. I have done this and have always found renewed energy after time off.

CHANGE YOUR WORKOUT – We have a finite amount of time and energy, yet a seemingly infinite amount of beneficial exercise options. We should experiment with new exercises, new levels of resistance, different sets and reps. This will not only improve our fitness and physiques; it will boost our attitudes and refresh our minds.

TRACK WHAT YOU ARE DOING – To accurately gauge our progress or lack thereof, we need records. I may be obsessive, but I journalize weight to tenths of a pound, blood pressure, pulse, calories consumed per meal, total calories per day, aerobic exercise and resistance exercise. Every day.

It is also important to track specific exercises and accompanying sets and reps and / or minutes.

Here are a few suggestions from Amazon to simplify the tracking process:

Fitbit Versa Smart Watch

Fitbit Inspire Heart Rate & Fitness Tracker (under $100.00)

Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch

Fit bit Smart Scale (measures weight, body fat %, lean mass and BMI)

CHANGE YOUR EATING HABITS – Eat more lean protein. Eat at least 1500 calories (for men) and 1200 calories (for women) per day. By all means, don’t celebrate weight loss or fitness gains by rewarding yourself with heavy meals. Drink water and not calorie – laden sodas or alcohol with empty calories.
Cut back on carbs. Eat more fiber. Eat vegetables at every meal.


GET SUFFICIENT SLEEP – Try to go to bed and wake up consistently at the same time. Also, try to set a schedule for 8 hours of sleep.

Try this book – The Sleep Book: How to Sleep Well Every Night

MANAGE YOUR STRESS – Try yoga, meditation, tai chi, massage. This simple meditation eases my stress and promotes a restful sleep: close your eyes, remove any restrictive or tight clothing and sit or lie calmly. Then take a deep breath and release it slowly. Count 1,2,3,4 breaths and then start slowly counting again. So refreshing!

More books:

Practical Meditation for Beginners

Meditation for Relaxation

DON’T DESPAIR – fitness plateaus are to be expected and are not indicative of faulty training. They are nothing more than challenges to be undertaken and overcome. Note these bits of inspiration:

  • “Work out. Eat well. Be patient. Your body will reward you”.
  • “It’s pretty simple. Either you do it or you don’t”.
  • “Change may be just around the corner. Keep on, you will get there”.
  • “Your body can handle it”.
  • “Sweat is magic”.
  • “Fit is not a destination. It’s a way of life”.
  • “Making excuses burns zero calories

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CONCLUDING

Please be alert to the possibility – actually the inevitability – of fitness plateaus. They are bumps in the road and should not detract from anyone’s ultimate target. Deal with them. It’s not difficult. Then continue on with your fitness journey.

Leave any comments or questions in the “Comments” box below. Or e-mail me, richard@myworkoutathome.com. Be well!

Richard

22 Comments

  1. Excellent advice! Whenever I hit a plateau, I always refer back to what I’ve been doing, change things up and if necessary take a few days rest. It really works. Sometimes I’ll even go two full weeks before getting back into working out, and it makes all the difference in the world. Oh, and sometimes a tweak to my diet works too!

    And you’re right about getting at least 1,500 calories per day. So many people recommend men get much more than that, but personally I find that 1,500 calories (nutrients dense foods) is plenty for me. 

  2. Hello Richard, I agree with you that change in exercise routine would definitely  create a much more better result that sticking to the same old routines and expecting a different result. Also, learning to pedal down om the exercises and taking a rest would ensure that one makes better commitment and get the body readied for the next phase of development. Everything you wrote concerning fitness plateau is spot on. Great post

  3. Hmm, this are really good tips that you have shown here. I love the fact that that you understand what this means and you are also experiencing it yourself. The fitness plateau (I didn’t know that’s what it’s called) is something I always experience with my work out and this makes me let go of training. Most times,I just get bored of everything and sometimes I don’t just give out time anymore. This are really good tips and I should start all over on a clean slate with the tips you have given here. I’ll see how effective it is for me. Thanks!

  4. Amazing! This is a really educating and motivating review. I have always stopped fitness exercises after doing it for days. Reason been that I lack motivation of not seeing results which I programmed my mind to. This is a really great review I must confess. I am grateful I read and have learnt a lot tips on how to gain results and be always ready to make changes in the four corners of my room. Taking a break when I notice slow or no changes after 3 weeks will go a long way. Thanks for the value adding review.

  5. Hi! I recognize that what I’m going through is not instant gratification but fitness plateau. And you have suggested two points that might be affecting me. Thank you for helping me recognize them. These points are: lack of sleep and also not having an adequate nutrition lately. I’ll focus on improving these two points. It’s a relief identifying what may be causing these issues. 

  6. Good and informative article about overcoming a fitness plateau. Lots of good points and tips and after 17 years of exercices from a complete newbie to the national level athlete I can honestly say I agree with what you said in the article. I want everything just now – mentality is the best (and fastest) way to fail. Many people forget very simple steps on their way to better condition, like to sleep enough or maintaining a high-calorie diet to gain muscle. And many people are not patient enough when progress starts to be very slow. However, thanks for a good article, I will take a further look at your website. 

  7. Dear Richard,

    Thanks a lot for the informative and helpful article. Great insights on Instant gratification. You not only discussed the problem but you have provided the solutions as well. 

    You are correct. Nowadays people are looking for fast results… Fast food, Fast transactions, Fast money everything needs to be fast including their fitness results. As you mentioned that’s not the case it takes a lot of work, effort, patience, and time.

    Drinking more water, eating more fiber, and doing meditation is on my to-do list for a while. After reading your article, I am determined to implement all.

    Since I worked in a night shift for 6+ years, I often struggle to sleep. Thanks for the recommendation of Dr. Guy Meadows book and it’s on my list.

    Thanks for the Great inspiring article! This has to be motivating, not only for me but also for many others.

  8. Instant gratification has made a lot of people stop their workouts. I have even almost fallen for this on several occasions. When I don’t see the results I hope for I tend to almost quit. It would require a lot of mental convincing to encourage myself to continue with my workout. 

    Experience has shown me that sticking with the process eventually leads to good results. Like you said sometimes it is a good thing to mix it up and take breaks. I have found this to take the boringness out of the process and also having realistic expectations can take a lot of pressure off you and focus more on getting results from your workouts.

  9. Yes! I truly believe in the power of rest. When your body is exhausted, it’s a great idea to rest up, heal, and let the energy well back up again. I also love tracking data. It’s so easy to forget things, and it can be hard to understand your progress so far if you don’t have a record. 

  10. Thanks, Richard, this post was really very helpful. Now  I feel better knowing that those days I get tired of my work out routine or lose total interest is something that others experience too.

    I have had so much less interest in working out that I even decided to try weight loss supplements, but like you rightfully said, most times these drugs don’t even work at all or they may take a long time to achieve any outcome.

    And I am glad you’ve listed some ideas to try out. Hopefully, these will help me get my groove back.

    Thanks for sharing..

    Cheers

  11. I must agree with you completely (except that you don’t need more hair – you look great!)  Fitness plateaus are SO annoying but especially when you have unrealistic expectations.  In my younger days, I used to do one day of cardio followed by one day of weights and took Sundays off.  It worked fairly well for me.  Still, plateaus happen and they are so very frustrating.  I like your idea of taking a week off and then getting back at it.  Your point about sleep is also crucial.  Without enough sleep we just don’t have the energy for a decent workout.  I’m very impressed with your routine!

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