It can be incredibly frustrating when you feel you’re doing all the right things but still aren’t seeing progress when it comes to fitness or weight loss.
This is very common and we’ve all been there! Below are five explanations for why you may have hit a plateau and what you can do about it.
1) You’re not following a programme
You wouldn’t get into your car and start driving without knowing exactly where you’re going. Yet so many people follow this exact principle when it comes to fitness.
An exercise programme is like a sat nav when you’re driving to a new destination. It tells you exactly how to get there and how long it’s going to take. Without this handy navigation tool, you’d probably end up driving around in circles and it would take you much longer to get to where you want to be than is necessary. That’s if you even manage to get there at all.
You’re going to face the same dilemma if you don’t follow a structured fitness programme. While any movement is of course better than doing nothing, setting goals and having a strategy in place will dramatically increase your chances of achieving them.
Set yourself some goals. This is so important because it’s what will drive you to keep going even on those days you really don’t feel like it. Here I talk more about how to set goals so make sure you check it out!
Your programme should be tailored specifically to your needs and current fitness levels so avoid using a generic template from the internet.
2) Your diet is letting you down
I’m sad to say it’s true – you really can’t out-train a bad diet.
If you’re putting in the hours with your fitness regime yet your progress has stalled, the most likely culprit is your eating habits.
This can work two ways. People often think that because they’ve done an hour at the gym, they can eat whatever they want for the rest of the day. They then end up consuming more calories than they burnt off during their workout, undoing all their hard work.
At the other end of the scale, a lot of people think the only way they’ll lose weight is to follow a low-calorie diet. Significantly dropping your calorie intake will of course lead to weight loss, but living off 1,200 calories a day isn’t sustainable, you won’t have the energy you need to give your workouts 100% and you’ll probably be pretty miserable trying to survive on so few calories.
Your diet depends on so many different factors and is very individual to you, your goals and your lifestyle. While I can’t prescribe a diet for everyone, here are some of my top tips for staying on track with your nutrition habits.
· If you want to lose weight, you need to be in a calorie deficit – a sensible one! How many calories you eat will depend on your age, gender, goals and activity levels. Have a look online for a calorie calculator which will give you a rough estimate of how many calories you should be eating
· Don’t restrict – contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to eliminate all your favourite things from your diet. Doing so will just make you binge on them when you do let yourself eat them. Everything in moderation!
· Use an app like MyFitnessPal. Seeing what you’re consuming will help keep you accountable and it’s also very eye-opening. It’s so easy to underestimate how much we’re eating
· Prioritise protein. Protein is very important for building muscle, aiding recovery and it also keeps us fuller for longer so you’re less likely to snack and overeat at meal times.
· Stay hydrated. Often we think we’re hungry when actually, we’re just a bit dehydrated. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and this will help keep hunger at bay
3) Progressive overload
If you want to see results, progressive overload is incredibly important.
This principle involves continually increasing the demands on your body by making your workouts more challenging in some way. This is crucial for ensuring your body keeps adapting. Without it, you’ll hit that dreaded plateau.
There are lots of different ways you can apply progressive overload to your training including:
· Lifting heavier weights
· Increasing the number of reps or sets you’re doing
· Decreasing rest time between sets
· Trying a new exercise
· Doing longer or more frequent sessions (as long as you’re not overtraining)
· Increasing time under tension (slowing down the movement when lifting weights)
· Increasing range of motion
· With running you can increase mileage, add some hill training or do intervals
Always make sure you’ve perfected your form and technique before progressing. This alone can be enough because you’re going to get a lot more out of an exercise if you’re doing it properly.
4) You’re not being consistent
40% of our daily actions are the product of our habits. From brushing our teeth to scrolling through social media, there are so many things we do every day without even thinking about it. We’ve done it so many times, it just happens.
If you want to reach your goals, you need to make exercise a habit.
How to build good exercise habits
· Find an activity you love. If you enjoy it, you’re far more likely to stick to it
· Exercise at the time of day you feel best. If you’re full of energy first thing in the morning, get your workout done then. If you leave your workout until the end of the day when you tend to feel exhausted, you’re far more likely to find excuses not to do it
· Pre-determine the days and times you’ll exercise. If you set the intention, it’s more likely to happen
· Set the tone for your day by starting with a healthy habit. Drink a glass of water, meditate, do some stretches, think about what you’re grateful for, have a healthy breakfast – how you start your day will have a huge impact on how it ends
· Find a way to keep yourself accountable. This can be anything from setting yourself a goal, working out with a friend or using a personal trainer who will ensure you turn up to sessions
If you’re struggling to get going, here are five top tips for motivation.
5) You’re overtraining
When it comes to exercise, we often think the more we do, the stronger, fitter and faster we’ll get. While a well-structured programme will help you reach these goals, overdoing it can in fact send you the other way.
Our body needs rest between workouts so it can adapt and recuperate. Believe it or not, rest is also essential for muscle growth. Overtraining on the other hand can cause your performance to plateau or even decrease.
Common signs you’re overtraining include:
· You’re struggling with motivation
· You always feel tired
· You’ve noticed a drop in performance
· You’ve stopped seeing progress
· Your resting heart rate is higher than usual
· Your muscles always feel sore
· You’re struggling to sleep
· You feel irritable
· You keep getting injured
It’s common for people to feel guilty on rest days but remember, you’re doing your body a big favour by taking them! Rest days don’t have to mean doing absolutely nothing either. If you prefer to keep active you can still go for a walk or do something low impact such as yoga.
If you have any questions about training and plateaus, feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org