You’ve been working out for three months, enjoying progress, and then you’ve finally hit a point where you don’t see any progress.
Here are three different types of fitness plateaus that we fitness folks have to consider:
Plateau because of too little exercise or nutrition intervention
You’re not improving because you are not doing enough work or you’re not dieting enough to get the change that you want to see in your body. You know this is the type of plateau you’re experiencing when your workouts do not challenge you anymore and/or you find yourself eating a bit too much. The simple fix is to increase your exercise to the point of being sufficiently challenged and/or dial in your nutrition better.
A maintenance phase plateau
This is perhaps one of the more misunderstood plateaus in fitness. Our body likes being in a state of homeostasis, which is being in a state of physiological balance. If you notice, when it’s hot outside, our body finds a way to cool off through perspiration. If it’s too cold, our body shivers to generate heat.
Through fitness, be it weight loss, weight gain and/or improving fitness levels, the body wants to “stabilize” adaptations. This is why fitness is seldom a linear process. Typically, the body wants to stabilize for at least six to 12 weeks before another set of adaptations can be worked on. For those who are on a weight loss phase, for example someone has lost 30 lbs. already, perhaps a three-month plateau involves maintaining the weight lost, before working on more weight loss. The fix is to maintain your fitness levels and nutrition through this plateau. There are also those who are already satisfied with their progress; being in a maintenance phase allows us to focus on fine-tuning our health and fitness routines.
The overworked plateau
This is more common than we think. You’re working so much, you’re dieting hard, and yet what is happening to your body relative to your effort put in is minuscule. The body likes being in a state of balance; it does not want quick changes to its physiology. You know that this is your phase when you have the signs and symptoms of overtraining: poor sleep, lethargy, lack of motivation and drive etc. Dial your training back and hit a maintenance phase plateau to help your body recover. Also do not increase the intensity and volume of exercise by more than 10 percent weekly.
Knowing what to do when you hit a fitness plateau is half the equation. Doing something about it is the other half. Being physically active, eating healthy and sleeping well can do so much for our health especially during the pandemic.