Hitting a training plateau is a real bummer. It can literally knock the stuffing out of your motivation, leaving you wondering if you want to work out again. Welcome to the club, but don’t get too hung up on it, if this sounds like you.
Training plateaus can happen regardless of your level of experience or fitness goals. They leave seasoned professionals as frustrated as amateurs. Let’s have a look at why they happen and what you can do to overcome them.
What is a training plateau?
It’s when you suddenly stop getting the expected results from your workout; be that strength, cardiovascular fitness, muscle gain, endurance or similar.
Why does it happen? There are many reasons but it could down to the fact that your current workout isn’t challenging you anymore. Your body has adapted to it and it’s time to shake things up a bit.
The human body loves having new challenges thrown at it, something new, something difficult, something you really have to work at. Psychologically speaking, humans thrive on adapting to new circumstances, your training plateau could be your body screaming for a change.
OK I’ve hit a training plateau - what now?
Don’t freak out! It’s OK, with a little bit of planning you are going to get yourself out of this. Also, you may just be having a bad day, so don’t kick yourself just yet. Monitor your progress for a few weeks. Don’t allow the plateau to turn into a failure, it’s just a bump in the road.
The first thing to do, is have a darn good look at your previous workouts. It’s time to become your own personal detective.
Assess your workout, if you have an activity tracker, you will have a wealth of information to tap into. If you haven’t, good old pen and paper will do the trick.
Look at everything, what you have been doing, when you do it, how often - literally write down the reps, sets, weights used, machines used, etc.
If you’ve been keeping a food diary such as the– pat yourself on the back, now check your calorie intake, when you ate and what.
Overcoming your plateau
Now you can have some fun. It’s time to shake up how you train, to offer your body the challenge it craves. Map out your training schedule, then look for opportunities to stimulate your muscles – this means offering them something new or different.
Change everything, the reps, the intensity, the machines used. If you normally bench press, swap for free weights, if you normally run – swap for a cross trainer or rowing machine. Drop the weight but increase the reps. Change your grip and angle of lift. Go to the gym before work, instead of afterwards. Try something new – a spin class or lunchtime walk. Aim to change your training plan every 2-3 weeks to keep your body guessing.
Ever heard of periodization? Linear periodization is the most common form of weight training which involves gradually increasing weight, volume and intensity. This is sensible when you are a newbie, it helps you to progress without hurting yourself. Non-linear periodization will help you improve your endurance and strength. Don’t be afraid to mix it up – change the parameters but keep note of how you are doing.
Get some expert advice or a training buddy
Getting your motivation back, after you hit a plateau can be difficult but help is at hand.
Training on your own can get a little monotonous, why not try personal training, or joinfor 3 months? Having expert advice is worth its weight in gold and years of experience may be just what you need.
Training plateaus are part and parcel of training, expect them, anticipate them and prepare for them
by changing your routines. Your body loves adaptability. Give it what it needs and you will hopefully stay one step ahead.