How to get off a plateau

“I keep hitting a plateau and losing motivation”

That was one of the answers to my recent ‘what is your biggest challenge to staying in shape’ survey.

In fact it was quite a common problem, so I thought I’d tackle it in a blog.

A plateau is where you make progress at first, but then your results tail off despite continuing to put in the effort.

It’s really common with runners, and it’s really common with weight loss and usually for a very similar set of reasons.

If you have your heart set on a specific goal then an absence of progress can be incredibly frustrating.

Here are 5 reasons why you might be on a plateau with your results.

1) You’ve been doing the same thing for too long.

After a while your body gets used to doing the same thing and no longer responds to the training.

You need to mix up your training to keep making progress.  ‘Periodise’ your workouts so you spend a few weeks one one aspect of your fitness, then switch to focus on another.

2) You’re not resting enough.

Remember that your body adapts and gets stronger when you rest, not when you train.  The training gives your systems the stimulus that they then respond to and adapt so that they get stronger.

Don’t give yourself enough rest in your program and you won’t fully benefit from the hard work you put in during your session

3) Poor nutrition.

Any diet will work. 

To begin with.

But if your nutrition plan involves dramatically cutting calories then after a while (days or weeks) your results will slow down or grind to a halt.

Make sure that your nutrition plan supports health, rather than purely weight loss.  You need to be eating enough of the right foods to keep your body burning fat rather than hanging onto it (take a look at the 12 Day Kick Start to learn exactly how to do this)

4) You’re getting closer to your goals.

Results are parabolic.  If you’re starting from scratch you’ll see huge gains in the first few days or weeks.  But then the closer you get to where you want to be, the slower your progress will become.

This is why sub-3 hour marathons and 6 pack abs are so hard to achieve and hardly anybody gets them. 

The last 20% of ‘the result’ can take up to 80% more effort to achieve. 

Breaking through this particular plateau can take a step change in commitment and a new set of beliefs about what is possible.

5) Hormonal imbalances.

The most frustrating plateaus are when you feel that you are doing everything right and still not making any more progress.

In this case I’d recommend looking at your hormone levels.

Sustained high levels of the stress in our lives can eventually lead to what is known as Adrenal Fatigue

Doctors can easily test for extreme highs of the stress hormone cortisol (Cushings Syndrome) or extreme lows (Addisons Disease) but often the low levels that cause Adrenal Fatigue aren’t low enough to trigger the a positive test result.

You may experience a general sense of tiredness that 10 hours of sleep doesn’t quite alleviate, or rely more heavily on coffee to power you through the day.  It can also cause a feeling of constant overwhelm, and cravings for salty or sweet snacks.

Basically your adrenals aren’t responding to stress adequately and everything becomes more of an effort.

If any of that describes you, it’s worth checking out James Wilson’s book ‘Adrenal Fatigue’ on Amazon 

Plateaus are frustrating, but they don’t have to last forever.

Personally I try to take something out of every workout that I do. 

More often than not my training is an end in itself and I always feel better once I’ve been for my ‘walkies’.

If I am training for something and feel as though I’m no longer getting the results I once was, that’s when I know it’s time to change up my training.

Have a look through that list and if you’re on a plateau, take the necessary actions to get yourself back on track.