You’re working out regularly, filling up on lean protein and veggies, and suddenly not seeing the results you once were. What gives? Meet your new fitness frenemy, the dreaded plateau. Typically characterized by a lack of weight loss or muscle gains, plateaus can be incredibly frustrating, and yet, they happen to the best of us (AKA all of us).
The good news is that plateaus usually indicate you’re gaining strength and getting fitter; your routine just needs an upgrade. Basically, like a long elliptical workout set to the wrong music, your body’s simply bored. “A plateau happens when our bodies stop responding to our workouts because our muscles eventually adapt to what we do,” says Aaptiv trainer Candice Cunningham. “If we always run the same pace or lift the same weights, it gradually becomes less challenging. We have to change it up!”
Change is hard, but waiting around for results is harder. So, here are four things you can do today to change up your routine and get over that plateau ASAP.
1. Change up your workout. If you’ve ever rolled your eyes at the phrase, “if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you,” first of all, we get it. Second, though, it’s totally true and may be key to more progress. “Our muscles need confusion and continued challenge to grow,” says Aaptiv trainer and certified holistic health coach, Kelly Chase. “If we’re always doing the same workouts over and over, plateaus are a sure thing.”
If you’re a dedicated member of the steady state cardio clique, Chase recommends incorporating HIIT and strength training into your weekly routine to work muscles you may unintentionally miss on your cardio machine de choix. If you’re a weight room advocate, adding a HIIT component to your workouts will add a new and necessary intensity that should help you break up any muscle monotony and see more progress.
You should work to challenge your body in new and different ways daily, but Cunningham suggests overhauling your routine every four to six weeks. “I always change client programs to focus on new and different things and keep their bodies guessing,” she says. “These regular changes and challenges keep the metabolism firing because the body needs to work in new ways and that can require higher calorie burn.”
2. Look at your diet. What happens in the kitchen, doesn’t always stay in the kitchen. Your diet has a profound impact on your body’s ability to lose weight and build muscle. If you’re stuck on a plateau, take a look at not only what you’re eating, but how much you’re eating. Don’t worry: It’s not always about cutting calories and favorite foods. In some cases, you actually might be eating too little. Phew!
“If you recently upped your physical activity, you may have to increase your caloric intake so your body has all the fuel it needs to burn fat and calories, not muscle,” says Chase. This is particularly important for those working toward muscular gains. Ensure you’re eating a well-rounded diet of vegetables, lean protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats. But don’t forget to actually enjoy your food. It’s possible to make healthy meals that still taste delicious. If you’re too strict — we’re talking steamed kale and grilled chicken every day strict — you risk boredom and a potential junk food binge, says Chase.
If you find your body clinging to every last pound of fat, you may need to eat fewer calories. That said, your body still needs plenty of fuel to keep up with all your activity, so don’t drastically reduce your food intake. “If you’re burning 2,000 calories a day, but only eating 1,400 calories, you may be putting your body under unnecessary stress and doing more harm than good,” explains Chase. “Try starting with a smaller deficit, such as 1,800 calories, and see how your body responds.”
3. Enlist a personal trainer. You’re more likely to push yourself harder and stay on track with the help of a personal trainer. Trainers are walking, talking fountains of support and motivation. They get to know you individually and can push you beyond your plateau and onto your next fitness goal. But we know a personal trainer isn’t an option for everyone. If your budget is less glamorous gym full of amenities and more resistance bands from Amazon, we get you. And we got you.
When you need that extra push to overcome the infamous plateau, Aaptiv trainers and their workouts set to hit music you already know and love can help get you there. No, really. Trainer-led Aaptiv classes cover everything from HIIT to meditation and every single type of cardio and strength workout in between. It’s not in-person attention, but it definitely feels one-on-one. And, with thousands of classes, it’s also an easy way to change up your workout to challenge your body in an effective, fun way.
4. Practice self-care. If you’re not sure how a warm bubble bath or some good old-fashioned “me” time can help you build muscle or lose that last five pounds, trust us! An active lifestyle is incredibly rewarding, both physically and mentally, but at times it can also be taxing and discouraging, especially in the case of the occasional plateau.
It’s hard to not get frustrated from time to time, but a rest day full of self-care can help get your mind and body back on track. “Whether you go for a walk, get a massage, listen to podcasts, or read positive affirmations, make time for yourself,” says Chase. Fitness is a full-body journey, and that includes your mental and emotional health too. So, practice regular self-care, and remember to be patient.
“Everyone is different and we achieve different things at different times,” says Cunningham. Plateaus are a part of the bigger picture and, if nothing else, remind you to shake things up once in awhile. You’ll get there when you get there!
(Photos via Getty)