At some point everyone has had goals that seemed impossible. Keep moving forward and eventually they will just be milestone in your rearview.
There’s a point in training where everyone hits a plateau, it may be when you stop losing weight, stop gaining mass, or peak with how much you can lift. The body is an amazing machine, it adapts to the stress we put it under pretty quickly and it takes more/different stress on the system to effect change. This is when many people get frustrated and fall off of training. So the question is, what do you do?
The answer is not to train harder, but rather to train different. Just pushing harder or working out longer will help a little, but not much. The body responds to new stresses, so changing frequently helps to keep your body adapting (and it’s also less boring).
There are many ways to vary your routine. How you do so depends on what your current training looks like and also what your goals are. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Try pick-ups and/or sprints (cardio)
If you normally do steady state cardio (same pace for a certain period of time), try changing up the pace. Alternate between your normal speed and one that is a good bit faster. Or break the total time that you do cardio up into smaller segments where you sprint for a ways and then cool back down to your resting state.
Decrease reps and increase weight.
– this increases the recruitment of fast twitch muscle fibers. It also maintains the intensity of the workout while shortening the length of any given set. You may just be surprised at how much you can lift when you don’t just reach for the weights you are used to.
Increase sets/decrease reps
– pretty self explanatory here. This increases your overall volume, but not by a huge amount and can help maintain mental focus across more of your workout. (You may also try combining this with the first strategy to increase your workout intensity )
Change the speed with which you lift
-most people lift with a pretty regular pace, 1 second down/1 second hold/1 second back up. Try adjusting this pace to increase the time on the “down” or eccentric portion of the exercise as this strength is often undertrained and is important for joint stability.
Last but not least
Change the exercises
Hopefully you already know that it is good to train all of the major muscle groups (pecs, lats, traps, delts, glutes, hamstrings, quads, abs, calves). Many people split these up to where they target a certain area or areas on different days. There are many different exercises which workout the same muscle group. For example to target the chest, one can perform flat bench press, incline press, decline press, or chest flys (among others). There are also any number of hand positions for each of those options. (Close grip, wide grip, neutral). Try alternating between different exercises or variations on your favorites. This will keep the direction of stress changing as well as alternating between some of the smaller supporting groups which you may not be addressing when you do the same old exercises over and over.
Hopefully this was a helpful jumping off point for anyone who has reached a plateau in their training. Feel free to comment or message me with questions or suggestions.
Don’t buy in to the fad diets or the “twelve weeks to bikini” workouts. It takes time and a lifestyle change to be sustainable.
Credit to gym memes on fb.
I was driving a friend of mine home and we were talking about the benefits of meditation. She asked me a question that I found very insightful. It struck me as such because I don’t think a lot of health professionals ask this question enough (or at all) which then leads to frustration with clients. “So we know what is good for us, why don’t we (as in people) choose to do it?” She then used several examples including sleeping enough, eating well, exercising, and meditating.
The first and primary reason I think this is, is that humans like immediate satisfaction. Health behaviors usually require setting aside something that has immediate gratification for a future gain. For example “I should go to bed but I don’t want anyone to spoil this episode of GoT,” or “I should get up and go workout…but my bed is so comfortable.” These non-healthy behaviors provide immediate gratification and often we don’t have to exert any kind of extra effort to pursue them.
So how do we do what’s best for us anyway? I have a few recommendations. I use working out as my example in most of the following, but I feel they can be applied generally as well.
1) Make it part of your daily plan. Ie, dont just fit your workout in “wherever.” That is the quickest way to make sure it becomes ‘never.’ The time you go to work (for most of us) is non negotiable. When someone wants to make plans your exercise time should be just as static. This is one of the reasons that group classes can be helpful. Those classes are only held at specific times on specific days. This same mindset for your personal exercise can be very helpful.
2) Write it down. A journal, a planner, an exercise tracker, or even a blog (🤗) can be a good way to track and give some tangible record of your health habits. Having an end product will add to the satisfaction you feel and help keep you motivated. I recommend recording what you do as far as workouts and the results you see/measure. For example if you realize your jeans have gotten a little big, write that shit down! That’s awesome, celebrate! You can also record bodyweight, body fat, strength gains, or just how you feel.
3) have some patience and forgiveness. Habits don’t form overnight and sometimes you will choose the unhealthy option. Beating yourself up and going into a negative mindset does not help. Acknowledge your choice, and then make an effort to make a different choice next time. It is important to learn from our successes, not just our failures. So consider what you did right then or in previous circumstances and try to apply that. When we wallow in failure there’s no joy, and it becomes all too easy to associate the behaviour we are trying to adopt with guilt or negativity.
4) Practice mindfulness. With continuing practice in mindfulness it becomes easier to say no to short term hiccups that will detract from your goals. You realize that the craving you are feeling is transitory. The wish to eat that extra pizza, stay out late with that person or sleep in on your alarm is temporary and soon will be replaced with guilt. Knowing what your habits are and adjusting for them is key.
5) Last but not least, enjoy the moment. Find the enjoyment in what you are doing and acknowledge it. This sounds hooky I know but bear with me. Too much of our time is spent experiencing the past or anticipating the future. When we are exercising or eating a healthy meal we are often not actually present doing that thing but rather daydreaming or planning to do precisely the opposite. How can we make disparate behaviors into a lifestyle without actually experiencing that lifestyle? I would argue that that is unsustainable. Enjoy what you are doing, otherwise it’s wasted breath.
Obviously I’m far from perfect but these are some strategies that work for me. Maybe you will find them helpful. If so, or if you have some advice to share, I would love to hear from you.
Sexism in the Weight room and the importance of connotation.
Think of three characteristics that make for a good workout. For me these are “aggression” “dedication” and “skill.”
It comes as no surprise, that in our patriarchal society these are words that have masculine connotation. The punishment for exhibiting a characteristic that is considered not appropriate for your sex is diminution. For example when women show aggression we are immediately labeled as “bitchy” or “catty.” To turn this around we also use feminine words as insults to keep men from breaking social norms.
Women from the 90’s generation are particularly afraid of being labeled as masculine. I believe this is somewhat due to the anti-feminist backlash since the 1980’s. Unfortunately this is not limited to physical appearance and thus there has been a regression in the honesty with which many women carry themselves. So now it’s time for a story.
About a month ago I was at the gym doing a circuit conditioning workout. I will be the first to admit that I am far from pretty when I workout, more so when I do conditioning. I just don’t care how I appear and can usually be found with converse, sweats, and a red hoodie. I was going after this workout with (if I do say so myself) the characteristics I listed above. During one of my 30 second breaks I heard a tiny 100lb girl exclaiming to her friend how “mannish” I was. When I recalled this encounter for several of my friends, they were furious on my behalf. I however was not really bothered and I actually felt sorry for the girl. As I have breasts, hips, medium length hair, and several pounds of mass that I still want to put on I can assume that what she meant was that I was “acting mannish.” In attempting to cut me down for having an effective workout she was revealing what she thought about her own sex. In her mindset I was incorrect for lifting heavy weights (relatively), for sweating, and for occasionally making a grunting noise. :0 In my mind she is incorrect, because in the long run she will be the person battling weight gain, self confidence issues, and probably osteoporosis.
Words should not have connotations based on sex, as gender is only a cultural construct. My reproductive organs cannot make me frail, weak willed, or stupid. I am no one’s “help meet.” However, changing how I approach my life because patriarchal society reserves aggression, assertiveness and intelligence for men would make me all of the above. Unfortunately there is not much to be done about culture, except remaining aware of our constructs and choosing intelligently when we will fight stereotypes. This is one of those stereotypes I think is worth fighting.
This is to both men and women. When you see a woman in the gym that isn’t afraid of lifting heavy weight, of making a little noise, or of spending a few hours being un-pretty, THINK before you scoff, criticize, or label. Encourage others to consider their actions as well and understand the implications of telling your sisters, mothers, or daughters (through your actions) that they should not strive for strength and independence. The alternative is that girl (incorrectly) lifting little pink 5lb dumbbells for 5 million reps and counting every calorie she eats, because a skinny celebrity trainer told her to.
Its your actions that determine where you are at the end of the day. Excuses will make you the same, effort will change you.