How to Beat Plateauing Progress

Big Sky Simsbury Team Member Jessie may have hit a plateau in her training, but she’s not ready for her results to slow down.  Here’s her strategy for beating that plateauing progress.

There are several stages we go through when trying to accomplish our fitness goals.
1. My body is sore ALL the time.
2. I haven’t seen any changes in my body.
3. Wow! I really do have biceps!
4. Okay…what gives. I’m not seeing any changes.
5. Back to seeing those gains!

The fourth stage of our fitness journey is often times the most frustrating. Seeing a pause in your progress can be discouraging, upsetting and can sometimes lead to giving up. This plateau is not only common, but it’s expected when you begin working toward something new. Lately, I’ve found myself plateauing. After doing some research I found a few key tips and tricks to continue my progress and get away from my flat-lining fitness journey.

It is important to identify changes you’ve made recently that could have affected your progress. Here are some things to consider:

1. Have your workouts changed? Have you recently started taking spin classes instead of strength training? Have you decreased or increased your weight at all since you started your journey? Have you stopped short of your normal amount of reps because you just don’t feel like squatting anymore? These are all important questions to keep in mind. Thinking back to my most recent workout I remembered that I hadn’t done the last few reps in my set, that my squat weight has only gone up 5 pounds since May, and that I’ve been doing a lot more cardio than normal. It’s important to keep track of your workouts for this exact reason! Bringing a small notebook or keeping track on your phone will give you the ability to look back on past workouts in order to compare days. This will surely help if you ever find yourself plateauing.

2. Is your diet hindering your success? Take a look back at the last few weeks. Did you have more than one cheat meal? Are you eating less protein than normal? How many pieces of candy corn did you actually have? If you’re sticking to a strict diet, one small misstep could throw everything out of balance. I have found that I’ve been eating a lot more candy and cookies than normal. One Oreo turns into 3 and a lollipop here and there is actually a lot worse than I imagined. Normally my eating is very healthy and basic, but it’s very possible the extra sugar (almost every day) is preventing me from seeing the results I’d expect.

3. Have you been sleeping enough? It is no secret that the average person does not get the recommended amount of sleep, but did you know this could be a reason why you’ve hit a wall with your progress? Lack of sleep increases stress levels, there’s less time for our bodies to rebuild muscles and less time for recovery. Personally, I have never had an issue getting enough sleep, but this could be a reason why you have seen a stall in your progress.

4. Has your attitude changed at all? Have you skipped a few days here and there? Are the winter blues starting earlier than expected? If you can’t find the motivation or drive to get to the gym and workout there’s no wonder why your fitness goals aren’t being met. It can be tough to balance work, life and the gym but just showing up is the hardest part. Once you get here it’s time to reach those goals, make those changes and push yourself!

My own battle with the plateau led me to dive deeper into this topic. I came across a theory called “The Dip”. Essentially, the dip explains progress as an upward trajectory. You start off with great progress, big changes and significant results. At some point, the reward you get from your effort decreases and it seems like you’re going in the wrong direction.

dip“When we hit that dip/plateau where our hard work seems like it goes unrewarded, it’s easy to give up and say ‘I’m a failure.’”

Giving up is exactly what the plateau wants you to do! It’s important to plow through the dip, accelerate past it and leave it in your rear view. Even if you can’t identify what exactly is causing your dip, it is no reason to give up. While you may not be losing more weight or gaining more muscle, you can’t sacrifice the progress you have seen! Here are a few ways to keep yourself motivated even when the effort outweighs the results.

1. Make small goals every day. Increase the weight, do an extra rep, add one more set to your workout. These small adjustments can lead to big gains.
2. Appreciate the small victories. After achieving your small goals, celebrate. I’m not talking going home and having a slice of chocolate cake but pat yourself on the back! You accomplished a goal!
3. Track other things besides weight. There are other things keep track of besides weight. Track your BMI, take your measurements, or even biweekly photos to see how your body is changing.
4. Accept that sometimes our body and mind aren’t on the same page. When body and mind are conflicted, it can be hard to accomplish your goals. It is important to understand that not everything happens the way we want it to. One day you may feel stronger than the Hulk, and others as fragile as fine China. Accept the bad days, it’s only natural.

Remember, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If you identify your weak points, make the necessary changes and keep your head held high, nothing will deflate you. While we may feel depleted and over worked some days, it’s all part of the process— part of the journey. If you ever find yourself plateauing, remember, there are ways to keep climbing!

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