It’s been a few weeks since you’ve started your new fitness program.
So far, things are going well. You feel great and have already seen some improvements in your performance and body composition.
Then it happens. All of a sudden your progress halts. You’re not seeing results. No matter how hard you try you can’t seem to progress. Your motivation starts to drop and you feel stuck.
Chances are this scenario has happened to you at least once. Plateaus are common in the fitness world and not only are they annoying, they are flat out discouraging.
So how do you get out of these fitness ruts, how do you find your motivation and keep the progression train moving? There are several things you can do actually, and most of them are simple fixes.
Before I dive into the solutions, let’s talk first about workout plateaus.
Why Do Workout Plateaus Happen?
The human body is incredibly good at adapting because the body is always looking to be as efficient as possible.
In the world of fitness, there is a principle known as the adaptation principle.
It simply means that your body adapts to the demands you place upon it. If you swim each day, you’re going to get better (adapt) to swimming. If you lift a certain weight that used to be heavy, after a while your body adapts and it becomes easier. This is a great thing, it means you are getting more fit, but it often comes at a cost.
After a few weeks of the same routine, your body has become more efficient at that specific routine. This means it takes your body less energy (calories) and effort to perform a task. You might notice you don’t feel as challenged, you might even feel bored.
This is when you would probably stop seeing results. You stop losing weight, you stop gaining, you stop improving.
When you hit these roadblocks, it’s time to switch something up. It could be your diet, your training or a combination of other factors.
What you can do when you’re not seeing results:
1. Make sure your diet is on point.
As unfair as it might seem, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Unless you are blessed with the genes of a mythical god, you have to be aware of what you are putting in your body.
Now before you get discouraged and think you are doomed to a diet of bland chicken and broccoli, that’s not what I’m suggesting you have to do. (In fact, I would never wish that on anyone.) All I am suggesting is to be more aware of how you are eating.
I suggest taking a day and write down everything you eat. Maybe you could include more protein in your diet and less processed carbs. Emphasis on processed. (Carbs are not the enemy.) Maybe you need more veggies and whole foods in your diet.
Write it down, assess, and make improvements.
Nutrition is 100% honest. If you think you eat perfectly but you still aren’t seeing the results you want something isn’t right, and it’s most likely your nutrition.
If you have very specific goals like wanting to reduce body fat, I suggest using a macro calculator to find out just how much you should be consuming. This will help you get your diet on track with your goals.
2. Make sure you are training specifically for your goals.
Is your training routine and diet in line with your goals? Here are some examples of the type of training you should be doing according to specific goals:
- Improving race times:
If you want to improve your race times and endurance specific to your sport, your training should consist of cardio and muscle endurance training in the gym.
I’ll use running as the example here, but the same type of routine works for other endurance sports as well. Have a consistent running schedule that includes a combination of regular pace runs, speed runs (intervals of fast and slow), and hill training. As for strength training, focus on muscle endurance. Reps should be 8-12 of 70-80% of your max for 2-4 sets.
- Losing fat:
Strength training and HIIT may not use fat as a direct fuel source while you are working out, but you’ll continue to burn calories long after your workout is complete. Strength training also increases your metabolic rate, allowing your body to burn more calories at rest.
- Building Muscle:
When it comes to building muscle, volume is your best friend. Volume refers to the number of sets and reps of resistance exercises. Typically for muscle gains, you are going to want to do 6-12 reps of 75-85% of your max for 3-5 sets. Additionally, you need to make sure you are eating enough to supply your muscles the fuel they need for growth.
Include a variety of strength exercises that use multiple muscles groups or you can split up training different muscle groups on different days. Just be sure your form is always correct to avoid any injury.
- Increasing Strength/Power:
Heavy weight lifting combined with explosive plyometric exercises are going to increase your overall strength and power. The standard is 1-5 reps of 85-100% of your max for 4-6 sets. Just make sure you have correct form and a spotter when doing these types of heavy weight exercises. Plyometric exercises could include box jumps, medicine ball throws, and jump squats.
- Preparing for Team Sports:
In addition to regular strength training in the gym, you can include power exercises such as plyometrics as well as Speed, Agility, and Quickness workouts. These can be specific to your sport but some examples include agility ladders, high knees, lateral jumps, and cone drills.
You should also include cardio workouts that will help you with your specific sport. Once again, HIIT training is going to help you get in shape fast while endurance workouts will build overall stamina.
3. Try switching up your workouts/routine.
If you have been working out hard 6-7 days each week and feel exhausted, achy, and don’t sleep well, then you might be overtraining and need to take a week off to rest.
On the other hand, if you only give your workouts 50% effort each time and you are not very consistent, you should probably re-evaluate why that is. Do you need to change something in your diet? Get more sleep? Or are you just bored? If you don’t enjoy your workouts, then make a change and try something else. Variety is the KEY!
If you workout for 30-60 minutes each day but are sitting on your behind the rest of the day, you might just try moving around more. Sitting for long periods of time has some pretty negative health effects, even if you do get in an hour workout each day. Take walks, take breaks from sitting, find fun ways to get moving!
I was experiencing a sort of workout rut a few months ago. I had been doing the same basic lifting and jogging routine for what had seemed forever and It was starting to get a little dull. Then I decided I wanted to try Olympic lifting. I wanted a new challenge. Three months later my strength and motivation improved. And after years, YEARS of trying, I can finally do pull ups. Amazing what changing up your routine can do!
4. Get more quality sleep.
I don’t think I can overemphasize just how important sleep is for your health. Plus it just might be the reason you are not seeing results. Sleep is when your body repairs itself so you can function at your best as soon as you wake. As you already know, adults should aim for 7-8 hours of restful high-quality sleep each night.
Here are just a few benefits of restful sleep each night:
- Better Insulin sensitivity
- Repairs tissues
- Decreases in the stress hormone cortisol
- Stronger immune system
- Increased focus and energy during the day
- Better movement and mechanics
- Better decision-making
- Increased emotional health
Do yourself a favor, and make it a priority to get enough shut-eye each night.
5. Stress less.
Stress can be a huge hindrance and might be one of the reasons you are not seeing results.
If your stress levels are high, cortisol levels in the body surge. This hormone, also known as the stress hormone, might make it harder to lose weight. Plus stress has us feeling unmotivated, tired, and our progress in the gym might suffer.
Be sure to take some time to unwind each day. You might find taking walks, doing yoga, meditating, or talking to close friends helps you relax and worry less.
6. Include a Supplement.
Once you’ve tweaked things in your diet and fitness routine, you might want to look into including a fitness supplement to fill in any possible gaps.
Supplements can really take your game to the next level. Here are some suggestions:
- Protein powder: Protein powder can help fuel your body, providing the building blocks for lean muscle and optimal performance.
- BCAAs: Branched Chain Amino Acids have been found to aid in recovery, performance, and the preservation of lean muscle. If you are trying to lose weight or are an endurance athlete, BCAAs can help you preserve your muscle rather than burning it as fuel.
- Pre-Workout: Feeling sluggish and tired before and during your workouts? Pre-workout can help give your workout an extra boost and focus if you often find your workouts lacking.
Fitness is a constant journey and there are always ways to learn, change, and improve. The trick is to not let setbacks get in your way or discourage you.
Use these tips to find out where you can improve and what might be holding you back. It might be a simple change is all you need!