Plateau? Get Unstuck

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It’s bound to happen. After months of enjoying strength gains, weight loss and the wonderful feeling of growing more flexible, you suddenly feel stuck. All the exciting changes have come to a halt, and you feel frustrated and discouraged. Your great new exercise habits are in danger of lapsing into good intentions. What’s going on?

You’ve hit a plateau. Plateaus tend to occur when the “honeymoon” phase of change is over and your routine becomes just that—a routine. A plateau can cause you to feel stuck and powerless. But don’t give up! To get past your plateau, use these tips from Kate Larsen, professional certified coach, IDEA Advanced Personal Fitness Trainer and faculty instructor for Wellcoach.com.

1. Cross Train to Wake Up Your Routine

One of the most amazing things about the human body is its ability to adapt—but that’s also one of its pitfalls. Once it has adapted, you have to shake things up to cause change again!

You don’t have to add a lot of time to your workouts to see change. Instead, increase your intensity. If you’ve been running on the treadmill at the same level for months, it’s time to break that mold. Instead of selecting the same speed as always, forget what you did yesterday and set the speed according to your energy today. Push a little. Another option is to find a running partner who is faster than you and run with that person once a week. Track your progress by measuring your effort level with your speed level.

2. Change Your Exercise Sequence

Because your body adapts to specific movement patterns and weight levels, it’s smart to periodically change the exercises you do for certain muscle groups. Changing the angle or direction of an exercise will stimulate continued strength development. For instance, you can work chest muscles from different angles and intensities with push-ups, bench presses (using free weights) or chest presses (on weight machines).

Do you always do cardiovascular work first and muscle sculpting second? Why not do sculpting first followed by a new choice of cardio work, such as power walking? This way, your lower-body muscles will already be fatigued before you start walking—so your workout will challenge you in a slightly different but important way.

3. Ask for Support

Tell a friend or your significant other that you’re stuck. Ask for encouragement to try new things. Consider hiring a personal trainer to move you to the next level. A trainer can help you adjust your training methods by mixing up sets, resistance or repetitions. Maybe your trainer will advise you to exercise different muscle groups on different days than you usually do or exercise lower and upper body on separate days.

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October 2003

© 2003 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

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