You have finally started to exercise consistently and started to see the results of that! You weigh less, people are starting to take notice and more importantly you feel more energized, healthier and more confident than you have in ages. Then the plateau arrives and your progress grinds to screeching halt. Here’s how to push past it and take your health and fitness to the next level:
The final stretch is always the hardest. After losing most of your excess fat and gaining strength, progress naturally slows. Plateaus occur because a fair amount of exercise and a relatively healthy diet can get us to a respectable level of fitness, but you can’t get beyond that point if you don’t start working harder. When you lead a busy life, spending more time at the gym and managing your nutrition can seem impossible because you just don’t have the time to step it up. That’s why fitness plateaus feel more like brick walls you’ll never break through. Without the necessary time and motivation, it seems like you need to settle for the progress you’ve made or just give up altogether. Luckily, this isn’t the end. Healthy diets don’t require constant management and calorie counting. A more challenging workout will take more effort, but it doesn’t have to take much more time. With a simple approach, you can break right through that brick wall and get into great shape.
Upgrade Your Workouts
You’ve followed a good starting plan but need to step it up if you want to push past that plateau. To get the most out of your sweat dollars, you’ll need to train your entire body each time you step into the gym. Here’s what we recommend:
- Each week you should alternate between two 30-45 minute full body. Each workout should begin with the same simple warm-up routine.
- You should perform each workout at least two times per week, allowing yourself one or two days off. (For example, you could do Workout A on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, then do Workout B on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.)
- You should still engage in some physical activity during your days off, but you don’t need to go to the gym.
However, when you do your workout, there are a few other things you want to be cognizant of:
The right weights make a big difference when attempting to overcome an exercise plateau. You need to choose a load that allows you to get the prescribed number of repetitions in your workout but not much more. Too little will make your exercise too easy and too much will prevent you from completing it. Don’t let your ego come into play, or feel that you aren’t strong enough—just be realistic with your choices. For example, if you’re aiming for 10 reps and feel that you could have done 12 to 15, then you need to increase the weight for that exercise. The flip side is also true—if you’re aiming for 10 reps but only were able to get 6, then decrease the weight accordingly.
Perform all the prescribed sets of each exercise before moving on to the next one. Make sure to rest for at least 45-60 seconds between each set, giving yourself more rest time depending on your fitness level. You can also decrease the number of sets initially by one if you need to work yourself into an intense program and then adding them back in as your strength and endurance increases.
Stay Active on Your Days Off
On days that you aren’t weight training, aim for 30-60 minutes of activity. This doesn’t necessarily mean heading to the gym to use the treadmill. It could be a walk in the park, a game of basketball maybe a bike ride. No matter what you do, make sure that it’s something that you enjoy doing. Just 30 minutes of activity four days a week adds up to two hours—definitely enough to burn some serious calories without wearing you down and hurting your recovery.
Supercharge Your Diet
The workouts are only a small part of your overall success, and in order to maximize your results you need to make sure that your nutrition is locked in as well. Exercise only burns calories, but if you’re taking in too many you won’t overcome your plateau. To help you achieve your fitness goals without losing your mind in the process, here are the big basics for you to focus on and implement.
Track Your Food Intake
When trying to lose body fat, the simplest thing you can do and the one that will yield the biggest return on your investment—is track what you’re eating. When it comes to overcoming a plateau, tracking yourself a little more closely can help.
The easiest method is to jot down using a (pocket) notebook , making it easily accessible to you at a moment’s notice. Every time you eat something, just write it down for the day. For the more visually-inclined, snapping pictures of your meals is a simple way to keep an eye on your intake in less than five seconds.
Remember: what gets measured gets managed. Fat loss is just as much of an emotional process as it is a physical one, and as with anything emotional it can be hard to be objective at times, which is why having a method outside your own head is critical to your success.
Focus on Whole Foods That You Enjoy Eating
In order to give yourself the best chance of success, focus on eating whole foods that you enjoy eating rather than empty calorie processed foods. Are whole foods magical – NO – however a calorie is a calorie regardless of the source, but processed foods (e.g. donuts, cakes, sodas) have more calories per serving than fruits and vegetables and are more likely to cause you to overeat. Occasional indulgences won’t hurt, but too much processed food can negatively impact your progress.
Getting the fat off is only half the battle – keeping it off is where the war is won. By not only focusing on whole foods, but making sure that you actually love (or at least enjoy the taste of) them you’ll prevent the weight from coming back. Although by no means an exhaustive list, here are the healthier options in the primary three food groups:
- Proteins: beef, lean pork, chicken, seafood (tuna and salmon – also excellent sources of Omega 3’s), shellfish, dairy, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, and supplemental sources such as protein powder.
- Fats: nuts, seeds, oils, and also what is found in the above sources of protein – some contain higher levels of fat than others.
- Carbohydrates: fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and foods such as potatoes, whole wheat pasta, brown rice and whole grain cereals.
If you need help creating a meal plan that works for you, check with your personal trainer or local dietician and they should be able to help provide you with good nutritional advice.
Do What Suits You Best
Everyone has used Google and the internet to find out things and we all know that there are always several different opinions and perspectives on what’s necessary to lose the fat once and for all and with all the choices out there it’s easy to overload your brain with way too much information.
Simplify things! The best diet is the one that you’re able to stick to in the long run, so you should incorporate any strategies that will empower you. Everyone is different depending on your age, goals and schedule so continue making consistent, positive changes that makes sense to you and your lifestyle. Take responsibility for what you want, make a plan and own it and you will succeed: “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me!”