If you’ve been hitting the gym, but you hit a plateau and you haven’t budged from in weeks, you probably feel frustrated. “What am I doing wrong?” you may think. “I’m putting in the work, I’m following the program, so why don’t I look like the posters on the walls?” Such frustrations are justified, but you don’t want them to interrupt your training routine.
What can you do to evaluate your fitness goals? It all begins with evaluating your current practices to see how you can tweak them. Here are ten tips to try when you feel like you live on a treadmill and never get anywhere.
1. You’re in a Rut
Oftentimes, if you love your routine, you think sticking to the same thing will continue to bring improvements, right? But our muscles don’t work that way. Muscles grow when microscopic tears in the fibers heal, creating strength at the torn places. However, if you use your muscles the same way all the time, moving past basic proficiency proves harder.
If you usually use machines, try substituting barbells to incorporate more muscles and trigger greater growth. If you normally run, try adding a bike ride into your routine. Mixing it up moves different muscle fibers, leading to improvement.
2. You’re Out-of-Balance
Many runners thrive on cardio, cardio, cardio, rarely ever paying attention to strength and flexibility training. Remember, three core components of fitness exist for a reason — cardio, strength and flexibility. Spend at least 5-10 minutes daily during gentle stretching even if you live for jogging and hit the weights at least 2-3 times per week.
3. You’re Taking It Too Easy
If you’re riding side to side on the lateral trainer like a soporific sloth, yes, you’re burning a few calories, but not doing much else. You should be able to speak when working out, but it should take some effort to do so.
In a hurry? Try high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Anaerobic exercise gets the heart rate up and revs metabolism for hours after exercising, resulting in weight loss.
4. You Stick with What’s Comfortable
Similar to the above, if you always hit the same instructors’ Zumba class, you miss out on all your fitness facility has to offer. Make it a goal to try one new fitness class each week. You may discover a new love, and even if not, you’ll move your muscles in a new way.
5. You’re Not Feeding the Machine
If you hit the gym religiously but see little improvement, you may need to examine your diet. Many gym-goers think they need to chow down on beef. Did you know, though, that deep, leafy greens such as spinach pack a great protein punch too, but with even more health benefits? There’s a reason Popeye loved spinach — and as a bonus, leafy greens also benefit your teeth, make you mentally sharper and can reduce your risk of heart disease. Take a look at your diet and see if you can find places like this where you could be getting more of the nutrients your body needs.
6. You Shy Away from Going Heavy
Many women shy away from the heavier weights fearing they’ll bulk up. But women lack the requisite testosterone to end up looking like The Mountain from “Game of Thrones.” If you want to break a training plateau, step up the weights.
You need not add much. Going up in 1-pound increments works as effectively as doing so in 5-pound ones. You can also double up light dumbbells for heavier single-arm and leg exercises.
7. You Push Yourself Too Hard
Over-training is a real phenomenon. If you hit the gym hard day after day, not only do you risk overuse injuries, you could burn yourself out mentally on your fitness regimen. Start slowly, and gradually build up to your fitness goals.
8. You Don’t Take Rest Days
Similarly, every athlete needs rest days — remember, muscles grow stronger when microscopic tears heal. Be sure to take at least one full day of rest weekly. You don’t have to become completely dormant, but stick to lower impact activities like taking a gentle stroll or practicing yoga on these days.
9. You Blame Your Genes for Everything
If your parents were always overweight, you may feel you were condemned to follow in their footsteps. However, your genes interact with the environment, meaning your heredity is not your destiny. Your parents, for example, may serve beef and potatoes at every meal and rarely exercise — but you can choose healthier behaviors.
10. You Give Up Too Easily
Finally, you’ll never break through a fitness plateau if you throw in the towel. Transformation takes time, and you didn’t gain the excess pounds or lose your muscle tone overnight. One recent study shows it takes two months on average to get back in shape after prolonged inactivity. And if you expect to get ripped in so short a time, think again. If you have excess weight to shed, plan on losing no more than 2 pounds a week if you hope to keep it off.
Breaking Through Fitness Plateaus
If you’ve reached a fitness plateau, it’s time to re-evaluate your routine. By making simple tweaks like the ones above, you can get back to making progress. Before you know it, you’ll be blasting through that plateau!