You’ve been getting well into the fitness recently, hitting all your goals, seeing progress every week, running longer/lifting heavier/cycling further, then… woosh. It all comes skidding to a halt.
Rather than getting better each week, you seem to be going nowhere. You’re still putting in the hours and doing the training but – if anything – you’re getting worse. Err, how does that work?
Welcome to the world of the plateau, my friend, the most frustrating stopgap on your road to fitness. Defined as ‘a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress’ you can hit a plateau for a number of reasons from diet to under- or overtraining.
But fear ye not, this state needn’t last forever. Here are five reasons you may have hit a wall and five ways to get back to your ass-kicking best.
1. You’re not changing up your workouts
“When you first start working out, your sport or programme will seem super challenging and therefore your body has to work hard to achieve it,” says Kim Ingleby, IFS personal trainer of the year.
Over a 6-8 week period, your body, muscles, heart and metabolism will adapt to a workout and your results will start to slow
“Over a 6-8 week period, your body, muscles, heart and metabolism will adapt to this workout and your results will start to slow. The key to continued results is to mix things up every 6-8 weeks to challenge your body, trick your muscles and kick your metabolism into action.
“This doesn’t need to mean longer sessions or more workouts. It could be changing the weight, reps and sets, mixing in higher intensity intervals, changing your class, the order you do your weights and cardio, anything to make it different. Record what you do, and you will notice what works you the hardest and what has little effect.”
2. You’re not getting enough rest
“Once you’ve been bitten by the fitness bug it’s hard to take days off ,” says strength and conditioning coach Jonny Jacobs, “but adequate rest is vital to see improvements. Not having enough is only going to slow down your progress.”
Every time you exercise it makes tiny tears in your muscles. Rest gives your body time to repair, recover and recharge
“Every time you exercise it makes tiny tears in your muscles,” adds Lucy Wyndham-Read a personal trainer and author of HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training). “Rest gives your body time to repair, recover and recharge. The golden rule is to have at least one day’s rest a week. If you’re struggling to cope without going to the gym, stretch, soak your muscles in the bath and plan your workouts for the following week.”
3. You’re not eating enough
“If you’re not eating enough, you’re not going to have enough energy for training, which can affect your progress,” says Lucy. “You need to replace the calories you’re burning if you’re working out a lot.
“The calories we need varies from person to person, but if you’re burning 2,000 calories in your day-to-day life, and 500 calories during a workout, you should be eating 2,500 calories to give you energy and maintain a healthy weight.”
That’s not an excuse to dive into the doughnuts though. “Choose foods that fill you up and give you sustained energy rather than those that give you a quick fix,” says Jonny. “Try to eat a protein source at every meal and don’t be scared of fats.”
4. You’ve lost your mojo
It happens to us all at some point, you just lose your mojo. You’re still training but your heart’s not in it and that’s affecting your progress.
“I hit a fitness plateau last year after I started working different hours,” says Chiso Uzochukwu, a personal trainer at Fitness First. “The only time I could fit in my own training was late in the evening when the gym was empty. No matter what I did I wasn’t making any progress and I realised it was because I work much better with a training buddy.
I changed my hours so I could train with friends and I started progressing again
“It’s good to have someone to encourage you and say ‘come on don’t quit’ when you’re finding it tough. I changed my hours so I could train with friends and I started progressing again. Training with a friend or a personal trainer will make you push yourself more than you would on your own, you look forward to seeing them, and commit to training as you don’t want to let them down by not turning up.” Plus, there’s always that little competitive edge to spur you on.
5. You haven’t got a goal
If you haven’t got a goal of where you want to get to with your fitness, it can affect your progress as you’ve got nothing to aim for. “Having a clear goal is really helpful to keep you on track, increase your motivation, focus and boost confidence on completion,” says Kim.
Being committed yet flexible is key to your success and enjoyment
“Break the goal into mini goals, with a week every few weeks as a ‘buffer’ week incase injury, illness, work or life just takes over. Being committed yet flexible is key to your success and enjoyment.
“Find a way of recording your progress such as an app, social media, old-school note book, vision board, photos – it doesn’t matter what, as long as you have some way of tracking your progress so you can see what’s working and what isn’t and measure how far you’ve come.”