in association with Kingfisher Fitness Club
MANY of us have been there. We’ve started out on a new plan or have been following a program or diet or lifestyle for a while and things have been going great. And then bam! Everything stops. For a day, or a week, or three. I want to talk a little bit this week about what could be happening, and what to do when the plan stops working.
What is a plateau?
A plateau is a levelling off of progress upwards or downwards for a prolonged period of time. This can happen when the plan you’re currently using (diet or exercise program or both) when executed consistently no longer provides enough pressure to make your body need to change. If this is actually the case then changing up your plan a little bit can get things moving again (for example; further reducing calories to encourage further fat loss). Note that in order for something to be a plateau there needs to have been change upwards or downwards beforehand. If your plan has never worked then it’s not a plateau and is more likely that the plan is just not right for you.
How do you know if you’re actually plateauing?
The thing is, for most people, this isn’t going to actually happen very often. It’s far more likely that one of two other things are happening. The first is related to three very important words in the section above. When. Executed. Consistently.
You started your plan and stuck to it rigorously for the first three weeks and made some great progress and you think you’re still sticking to it… But in reality you had a little cake here or a dessert there because you’ve been so good sticking to your plan, you deserve it, what’s the harm. Or there hadn’t been a night out yet inside the plan and now there has been (including a kebab after the club and hangover food the next day) or you had a really bad day and just don’t want to cook so you got a takeaway for the first time since you started. Things have slipped a little. The good news is that this is normal, and its life. We’re all human. I’m not giving you a hard time. All I’m saying is you might not be sticking to the plan as 100% as you were initially so you can’t expect to make progress as quickly as you were initially. As long as the time within bounds outweighs the time out of bounds (and it isn’t too far out of bounds) then you should still keep making progress, even if it is slower. Keep following the plan and give it time.
The second possibility is the law of diminishing returns which basically states that over time the amount of effort necessary to achieve results increases and the amount you get back decreases. Whether it’s fat loss or fitness improvements, progress will not be linear. You cannot keep losing 2lbs a week, forever. You cannot lift 5lbs heavier every time you go to the gym, forever. You cannot run a mile faster than the last time every time you run a mile, forever. The progress has to slow down eventually. This is normal. It means you’ve progressed to the next stage. Keep following the plan and give it time.
How do you break through?
As I’ve alluded to, keep following the plan and give it time. Ensure that it’s not just because you slipped a little and/or are hitting diminishing returns. This is important. Dropping your calories further the first time the scales doesn’t move (even though this might work) will eventually lead to you consuming so little you will go outside the plan and undo some, if not all, of the progress you’ve made. Give it time and understand that, even though you’re not continuing to lose, not regaining is also a form of progress. With fitness: eventually it will take a month, or even a year, to improve as much as you did in one week at the beginning. This is diminishing returns. And it sucks. And you can’t avoid it. Give it time.
How much time? A month. Give it a month. A month of consistently sticking to the plan even though you don’t feel like you’re getting anything back. If you honest to goodness do this and still don’t get anywhere then you could look at reducing your intake or increasing/changing your activity further. However, during that month, also keep track of a few other things if you’re not already: Sleep quality and amount, energy levels (amount and consistency), body measurements (get out the tape measure), how clothes fit, your overall mood(s)/how you feel, and stomach health. I’ve written about adherence here before but for more tips on this you could check out my Facebook or Instagram, look for the pictures of the big “1/5” to “5/5”.
I know the scales and/or how much you can bench press are what matter most to you right now but they don’t tell the whole story. Make sure you’re also honestly keeping track of some other ways to measure progress and celebrate improvements there too. If something improved in that month, even if the most important thing hasn’t changed (yet), then the plan is working. Give it time.
I’ve been experiencing some frustrations myself lately with lack of progress and reminding myself of this stuff has helped me (it happens to all of us) so I’m hoping that some of you might find this useful too.
For more hints and tips on diet and exercise you can find me on Instagram or Facebook @AdamWrightPT or come visit me at the Kingfisher Club on the Tramore Road. For information on the facilities and services we have available contact us on (051) 850300 or visit our Facebook page at waterford.kingfisherclub.com. Have a great week!