Plateaus are frustrating, but realize that they happen to everyone at some point in time during their training… even the genetic freaks out there simply glancing at a dumbbell and getting stronger.
They are the circle of life in the training world, and in order to keep a positive and healthy psyche, we need to try and deal with them as objectively as possible, avoiding any “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve”, any dwelling on the past, and beating ourselves up.
Deal? Let’s move on.
A plateau is when your current training and nutrition regimens are no longer yielding results and you stop making progress.
It’s important here to distinguish the difference between slow progress and no progress. In other words, stop being so damn impatient, and enjoy the process.
Now, there are really two types of plateaus:
True plateaus, and
“In our head” plateaus.
True plateaus can be caused by a number of things. Here are a few.
-You’ve been working so hard that your body needs a break from the stimulus you’ve been giving it in order to rest and repair. This can come from things like going to failure too often (& with heavy, ball-busting weight) which takes a toll on your central nervous system.
-You’ve been understimulating your body, exhibiting poor movement quality, a lack of range of motion, or a lack of intensity.
-Your metabolism is changing with your body and it needs something different than what you’ve been giving it in order to keep progressing.
Now, to the “in your head plateaus”…
Don’t get me wrong, these are very real plateaus and are just as frustrating as the former. But they usually come from factors that are totally within your control.
Small variables in your regimen start slipping, and you just don’t notice them until you are overwhelmed by the frustration of failure. And sometimes you just get too down in the dumps that you even start to self sabotage.
These plateaus are much more prevalent than true plateaus. Here are a few.
-You haven’t been keeping track of your lifts and your performance and are basically squandering around guessing how hard you’re working and if you’re even improving.
-You’re doing random-ass workouts when you feel like it – instead of following a carefully designed program.
-You haven’t been logging all of your meals to make sure you aren’t under eating, overeating, or eating the wrong things. you’ve got to log Every Damn Morsel that enters your pie hole.
-You’re stressed out and/or haven’t been getting enough quality sleep.
-You’ve been letting the frustration get the better of you and are adding workouts to try and compensate. This makes you more tired, more exhausted, more hungry, and has you reaching for shitty food – which you later beat yourself up for.
And the cycle continues until you’re on the verge of giving up. You’re spiraling out of control.
I get it. I’ve been there.
So, what should we do?
Well, the first thing is to realize what kind of plateau we’re experiencing. Is it a true plateau, or are we just not doing what’s necessary to get results.
If we’ve stopped losing weight, we’ve got to ask ourselves a few questions and be completely honest with the answers. We’re not fooling anybody.
-Am I eating the right things, and in the right amounts, and am I even logging so that I can answer this question?
-If I’m doing the right things, then is it time to change things up? Increase calories, and up my carbs for more energy to burn during my workouts? Decrease calories to correlate with my lower body weight, as it needs less now to perform?
If we’ve stopped gaining strength or are hitting a brick wall during our conditioning, we must evaluate.
-Am I training like a lunatic, going to failure on every set multiple times, letting form slip, doing doubles, adding shit tons of cardio to every workout?
-Am I feeling the exercise where I’m supposed to? Am I giving an honest effort or stopping when it gets too uncomfortable? Am I modifying to stay in the game or clocking out when I can’t do what everybody else is doing?
-Am I deloading or utilizing a recovery week in my training blocks?
-Am I even following a program or just going from one workout to the next?
Am I getting through, man?
Plateaus may not always be avoidable, but by being objective and not too hard on ourselves, we can break through much more quickly and start crushing it again.
What plateaus have you been experiencing lately, and how can I help? Let me know in the comments below.
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As a former anorexic to an international fitness presenter, I'm here to help. Relentlessly dreaming and seeking self confidence - I've been there and done it. You have the fire, you have the passion. Now it's time to put it to work.