FitnessWhat to do about that dreaded plateau

What to do about that dreaded plateau

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Frustration. It’s a common feeling, experienced by anyone with a fitness or health goal. As anyone who has been trying to lose weight, gain muscle, or maintain one’s current figure knows, things won’t always go your way on the road to wellness. There will be times when you feel you have given a kilometer of effort, only to see a millimeter of progress.

The way to combat frustration and obstacles is to reframe what popular culture makes us think of when those terms are mentioned.

I will be taking some pointers from Karen Nathan’s excellent resource for fitness professionals in the American Council on Exercise website, “What To Do When Your Client Stops Making Progress,” as well as from my own experience, to come up with some practical steps.

1. Set realistic goals

Shooting for the stars is a great philosophy for one’s life, but in terms of turning it into doable steps for fitness goals, it has to be tempered with measured moments and actions. Most importantly, the biggest consideration is to do things safely, or as safely as possible.

If you and yourself 50 pounds overweight (from expected norms), remember that it took years for you to put on this much weight. It didn’t happen in two weeks, so expect to take much longer than two weeks to lose it, as well. Goal seeing has to be grounded in the doable; otherwise, it’s daydreaming.

2. Take (honest) stock

We must come to accept that no one can be at the top of their game 100 percent of the time, and that includes in our devotion to our health and fitness goals. Even seasoned bodybuilders have cheat days; it’s a nod to the fact that we need “rest” once in a while. Honestly admitting what transpired in a week can help you chart the next moves more strategically, so that you can have more successes in your column.

3. Change your perspective

Oftentimes, our impatience is tied to time frames and highlights, so that we sometimes get myopic and become impatient with those goals.

By reframing your perspective­—looking at your wins instead of your losses you train yourself to think in positive terms: what I have done, instead of what I haven’t done. And tying this in with taking honest stock, if your “Lose” column seems bigger, then you need to replicate what you’ve done in order to get hits in your “Win” column.

4. Do successful activities again

If you find a certain food, activity, or modality interesting and even fun to do, then use this to your advantage. From an anecdotal viewpoint, we all know that work is enjoyable if we actually like what we are doing. Achieving our fitness goals follows the same principle. It won’t feel as demanding if we actually like what we are doing.

5. Change strategies

Have you ever heard the phrase “Doing more of the same is insanity?” It’s commonly used in sales organizations, to encourage sales professionals to change tactics. If a certain market is no longer buying from you, if no sales are coming in, maybe it’s time to change the way you play the sales game.

This is highly applicable in the fitness arena.  The term that seems most akin to the in-sanity phrase is “plateau”—when you’ve been doing the same exercise routine for two weeks and the scale hasn’t moved. When you know you’ve been eating right, but your weight is still the same. Reaching a plateau is quite frustrating, but you can use this time to experiment with things that are out of your comfort zone, and these changes don’t even have to be dramatic.

When you hit a wall, don’t hit back. Find a way around it, over it, under it. In short, treat these obstacles and frustrations as a challenge. Use it as a time to change the way you think, the way you do things, the way you see things. Focus on the positive, try alternative views and ways, change your body by changing your mind.

As She-Hulk quipped when she beat the Incredible Hulk: “Brains over brawn, every time.”

Read more tips on breaking the wall of plateau inside the magazine, available in all leading bookstores nationwide or downloadable from Magzter

Illustration: Paul Fabila

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