PLATEAU / noun /: A state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress. Most of us have hit a plateau at some point in our journeys and I’m inundated with messages from people asking what’s gone wrong and why they have stopped seeing improvements.
Quite often they start with, “I haven’t changed anything in my diet or training so I can’t understand why I’m not seeing changes anymore.” Well, without realising it, they’ve often answered their own question right there.
As your training journey progresses, things should be changing. You evolve and so too should your training. Don’t be scared to change the formula because it’s worked for you up until now. As you get fitter, your body can do more and it needs to do more to keep improving. As trainers, we describe this sort of thing as progressive overload. But in simple terms, that “more” can look like any number of things – lifting heavier, doing more reps, doing longer workouts, adding resistance, increasing workout lengths, training more often, running faster, running further etc etc. But whatever it is, never stop chasing more if you want to be the best version of yourself.
Before I go on, it’s important to also say this – a plateau isn’t as terrible as you think. It’s not a setback. You aren’t regressing or going backwards in any way. You’re in a maintenance phase which in itself is a positive. It shows you’re being consistent and sticking with it. So please don’t go giving up, because it’s really not that bad. Just flip reverse the way you look at it.
Here’s some more detail and other reasons why you might plateau:
1. You’ve already lost some weight.
Your body mass is one of the main things that determines what your resting metabolic rate is (the calories you burn outside of training/exercise.) So as you lose weight, you will find you have to keep cutting calories if you want to continue seeing results. I am not an advocate of calorie counting per se, but it is valuable to understand how many calories your body needs in relation to your goals and to have a knowledge of the calories in the food/drink you consume
2. You have succeeded in getting fitter.
Your body is more efficient because you’re stronger and fitter than you were. This means you burn less if you do the same workouts because you’re not having to work as hard as you used to. It makes sense that it’s harder to pull a 95kg body through a session that an 75kg body. Right? This is where that progressive overload that I mentioned previously becomes important
3. You’re kidding yourself.
You are eating and drinking too much and not training enough/hard enough. This often happens when we start to see results. We have the mentality of, I’m looking great, I’m going to reward myself with some cake. Or I worked really hard in that session and I’m feeling really strong, so this bag of chips won’t make a difference. Training isn’t some sort of transaction whereby the more you train, the more bad food you deserve to eat. That’s a majorly unhealthy way to think about both food and exercise so snap out of that if you’re headed down that path. Try keeping a training diary as well as a food and drink diary and record EVERYTHING so you can see where you might be slipping up and halting your progress. Also, be aware that you may be eating all the right things, but if you’re eating too much (no portion control) this will impact your progress also
4. You’re not as active as you think.
You are putting the hours in at the gym, but you’re not staying active throughout the day. You always take the escalator, never the stairs, you always drive and never walk, you don’t take breaks from your desk etc etc. A healthy lifestyle shouldn’t be contained within four walls at the gym. It should extend to all areas of your life
5. You aren’t sleeping.
Not sleeping enough can wreak havoc on your general health and prevent your body and mind functioning at its optimal level. A lack of sleep can not only lower your metabolic weight and result in weight gain, it can also affect your hormone levels and drive up your appetite. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night and if you’re struggling to get that, take action. Look at caffeine and sugar intake, stress levels and routine. Consider switching off TVs and mobile devices two hours before you hit the sack, try meditation or apps like Headspace, and make your room as dark as possible! Also, talking experience here, don’t have a baby haha.