The Dreaded Fitness Plateau
- By Dr. Jenni Bruning Brown
- May 31, 2015
The dreaded fitness plateau: 4 things to do when your workouts are getting you nowhere
You work out five or six days a week, sweating it out at the gym, and yet you feel like your body never changes. You still have the exact same problem areas you did when you started exercising and, in fact, feel like you are getting flabbier instead of fitter.
Let’s get one thing straight. Just because you are a regular at spin class every week or you “go to the gym” doesn’t necessarily translate into tight abs and a fit body. Not only could you be doing the wrong things when you are working out, but you could be spending the wrong amount of time or frankly, just wasting time.
We don’t blame you–it’s hard to know what to do. With all the craziness out there, all the social media, television and everything on the internet we are constantly being bombarded with the what we’re told are the newest, coolest workouts. If you’re not an expert, it’s likely overwhelming and difficult to know what workouts are right for your body, how much you need to do or simply what exercises really work and how to do them.
For some of you, the problem isn’t following all the latest and greatest, it’s getting stuck in your old routines and not knowing what else to do. Maybe you’ve just been doing the same thing you did from a couple years back and don’t realize that there are better ways of working out for your particular body, shape and gender.
Sara Jones, 29, lives in Baltimore and has always worked out doing pump classes and step type classes at her gym. “For all the time and energy I have put into it, going to class for an hour plus every day, I feel like I should look like someone who works out but I don’t. I am flabby and have no tone,” says Sara.
Lauren Drake, 31, from San Francisco, has a different problem. She has always followed the newest, coolest “it” workout. If she can’t find a class, she will jump on her treadmill for a 3 mile run, usually about 3 times a week. While she loves working out, Lauren says that she “loves going to the classes” but that she has no abs and no upper body strength or tone.
For any of us, if we are already working out and we don’t see results, the reality is that something needs to change. So whether it’s WHAT we are doing, HOW we are doing it, HOW LONG we are doing it, or a combination of those, ultimately it’s up to us to make the change.
- Figure out a plan. You can’t expect to see change without articulating what you want. Once you know what you are after (i.e. lose 5 pounds) you can tailor your workout plan to fit your mission. “If losing weight is your mission, add at least three 45-minute high intensity sweat sessions combined with weight circuits. These will get your fat burning going on high gear,” says Dr. Jenni Bruning Brown, Sport Psychologist and Owner of Fly, a fitness boutique with cycling, barre and High Intensity circuit classes.
- Keep track of what you do. This is critical. If you are exercising, you have to keep tabs on yourself. No matter whether you are switching up your workouts or doing the same thing over and over, logging your workouts is important. You have to be able to look back and say “hey, I did great last week, I worked out for 45 minutes 4 days last week!” but also to be accountable when you missed your workouts. You also need to know if you are doing too much of one thing such as cycling class every day, or all weight classes.
- Let yourself have fun with it. Find things you love. Look around to find classes you really enjoy going to and stick with them. Find instructors you can’t live without or people you want to see and that really make you work harder. Find workouts that make you have fun but also allow you to feel great. While these may not take you further toward your goals, they will give you the great feelings you need to keep going in the long run.
- Evaluate how you are doing. Maybe you need to cut it down or train differently. Many people are spending an hour or two at the gym to see little to no results. ” I see many people at the gym “lifting weights or doing 2 hour long classes and complaining about having no results. Often they just need to train more efficiently and do alternative exercises with different weights,” says Dr. Bruning Brown. After consulting with a trainer, Sara was able to change her workouts from over an hour and a half to 45 minutes by adding high intensity training and heavier weights. This change, while a reduction in time, actually benefitted her and helped her tone and lose the additional weight she was hoping for.