Awe, it happens to the best of us. One day we are on top of our workout world feeling and seeing gains, then the next and next few after that it’s as if our body declares war on itself and logjams any/all progress. Ugh!
Don’t panic – hitting a plateau is perfectly normal. Our body’s adaptation to the work we ask of it means energy efficiency catches up with workload leading to fewer bangs from the buck, if you will, from exercise. This doesn’t mean we are yielding less health protection, but it can mean the rate of weight loss, strength gains, or motor skill improvement slows. Frustrating for sure, but find the sunny side of the street again with just slight adjustments to your routine AND your approach to your routine.
First, ensure your engagement is achievement-oriented. This means doing cardio within your target heart rate zone, and using enough weight in strength training to overload your muscles. Any slips here are easily correctable.
Second, adjust the energy demand of your workouts by adding sprint bursts to your cardio and burn-out sets to your strength training. Sprint bursts are short intervals where you (safely) ‘sprint’ during cardio exercise. The length of bursts depends upon your fitness level, but even 10 seconds can be effective. After doing cardio at your usual intensity level for a specified time duration add a 10-second sprint (by increasing the mph if you are on the treadmill, for example), e.g., after each 5 minutes. The burst requires your physiology to kick in differently than what is required to sustain your usual intensity, and this different draw of energy catalyzes your metabolism – wakes it up, if you will.
A burn-out weightlifting set is completing as many low weight repetitions as possible of a particular lift, e.g., bench press, lat pull down, bicep curl. For example, on a day you have focused upon chest exercises, select a low weight you know you can successfully lift for several repetitions, and do as many presses as you can. For optimal safety, use a weight machine rather than free weights, especially if you don’t have a spotter or are a beginning lifter. Add one burn-out set at the end of each day’s lifting (for each muscle group focused upon that day).
Like cardio sprint bursts, burn-out sets draw upon energy differently than routine lifting, which can remind your physiology to keep growing your muscles.
Third, create different energy around your routine to re-charge your activity joojoo. Really!
Wear mis-matched socks…put your clothes on in reverse order – right to left rather than left to right…run your route in the opposite direction…listen to a different type of music…ask a chatty friend to join you then focus on your conversation…begin your routine 10 minutes earlier or later…obtain a free pass to a different gym for a week…leave your shoes outside overnight preferably tied to a tree…park in a different section of the gym parking area…switch out your shoelaces…
And, don’t for a minute think the power of joojoo is any less scientific than sprint bursts or burn-out sets. After all, the Sir of energy himself, Isaac Newton, confirmed as much in his ‘Energy can be neither created or destroyed, but can change form’ discovery. Said simply, energy is permanently accessible, but we may need to use different means to draw it out of hiding.