Kicking Plateaus in the Butte

It literally happens to everybody. No matter what your fitness goal is. No matter how diligently you work to attain it. Really, no matter what you do, or how well you do it. At some point, for some indeterminate amount of time. It is going to stop working.

It can be truly one of the most frustrating parts of weightloss and fitness. You step on the scale, you look at that measuring tape, you rack those weights, and despite your best efforts…. absolutely nothing has changed.

So what’s the deal? I’m doing my part, body! YOU DO YOURS! I’m eating right, I’m exercising, I even abstained from the double chocolate chip birthday cake and cousin Margerie’s birthday party! The least you could do in return is make me look FANTASTIC!

So, we’ve hit a plateau. After the steep climb, the painful ascent, the ‘thought you were gonna die’ effort, you have reached what seems to be a flat expanse that can’t be overcome. So what next?

Plateaus are just a part of the body physiology. The core goal of your metabolism is to find an equilibrium between input and output. So physiologically speaking, plateaus are actually quite the accomplishment. Your body has found a way to maintain structural integrity, giving all output requested on only calories provided…. its actually pretty cool… and annoying.

So lets talk about getting off the plateau and back on the steady climb upwards. This is a tough one. NOT because it isn’t possible, NOT because there aren’t LOTS of ways to do it, but because any number of things could have put you on the plateau, and until you break THAT thing, getting off of it can be difficult. But today… WE TROUBLESHOOT YOUR PLATEAU.

Muscle Confusion.

Without a doubt this is my first recommendation and in all truth and honesty, I find that this works 80% of the time.  In a remarkably flawed analogy;  after a time, your body starts working off muscle memory and NOT off of ATP-CP (the chemicals that actually fuel muscles).  Its like your car NOT needing gas to go home, because it knows the route, so fuel is unnecessary (FLAWED ANALOGY).  If you go to the gym 5 days a week, and DESTROY yourself EVERY TIME, but are doing essentially the same workouts each time… those workouts will stop working.  NOT because they aren’t good, and NOT because they aren’t effective… but simply put, because your body knows whats going to happen.  It has rigged up a way to be MORE efficient because of the repetition, so it no longer needs as much fuel to get it done.  So; plateau.

Sit down and write down your “gym routine” e.g.

  • 20 min on elliptical or treadmill
  • over to the stretching area to do my 5 favorite stretches (that I learned in 4th grade P.E.)
  • favorite weight workout 1 (arms/chest)
  • favorite weight workout 2 (Legs/Back)
  • favorite weight workout 3 (core/glutes)
  • pull-ups (because I can)
  • sit-ups (because I should)
  • pushups (because I think i look like a beast)
  • Juice bar for wheat grass and posing for the hotties that walk by.

There it is, the “daily routine”.  And for the record, to include the wheat grass hottie strut, thats not a bad set up.  But if you do that with any degree of regularity, your body will acclimate to it quickly.  So here is what you do.  Take a look at your list, identify the muscle groups you are working (done), and the next time you go to the gym, hit EVERY muscle group you usually do… WITHOUT doing ANY of the exercises on the list.  Nerry-a-one.

If you usually do bench press, do incline or decline press.  If you usually do leg/back extensions do deadlifts/squats/clean&press.  Figure out a DIFFERENT way to do what you are doing.  Your body will recognize the need for the muscles, but also be incapable of using auto-pilot through the movement.  There are some advanced/more complicated ways of doing this too… but lets start here message me if you have questions.

Time to workout.

I know a lot of stay-at-home mothers, or office-flunkies that have established “workout time”.  Its nap time for the kids, or the hour right before/right after work, or even a long lunch.  Working out is NEVER bad, and a routine and time of day isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.  But, it really can contribute to, or even cause a plateau.  This one can be difficult, but do your workout, at ANY time of day you don’t normally.

Your body runs off what is called bio-informatics, I can talk more about this if you need, but simply put; your entire physiology can easily get put into a cycle and flow of a day.  If you wake up, eat, exercise, work, sleep all with fairly standard regularity, your body sees every turn and can plateau out.  So tomorrow, wakeup an extra hour early and do your workout then.  Instead of taking a long lunch, eat lunch at your desk and dip out a few minutes early to head for the gym.  OR if something like that really isn’t possible, and ‘gym time’ really is your “only” available time of day, add something else to mix something up.  I work on the 7th floor, as times get boring and repetitive, I set an alarm, in random intervals, I walk down to the lobby to get a drink from the drinking fountain and come back up.  It takes 8 minutes, but it was 14 flights of stairs.  Blood gets pumping.

What are you eating?

Within here there are 2 major points, one I won’t go into too much detail about, the other should sound familiar.

There is a chance you aren’t eating enough.  I know, crazy right?  Sit down and do some math.  If you are eating 1500 calories a day and maintaining an INSANE daily regiment, your body isn’t going to lose weight correctly, in fact, unless you get stupidly anorexic about it, your body won’t lose much weight at all.  You NEED to give your body the fuel it requires to run.  No more, but no less.  Starving your body can/will actually cause your body to retain water, store fat and burn muscle, and some other weird actions that are NOT what you were going for.

The other part is essentially the same as the other two.  Do you eat the same thing every day?  Like, literally the EXACT same thing?  Mix it up.  Stay within your general calorie band, and don’t go insane, but mix up the core nutrients, change the types of proteins or when you get what.  Stop letting your body “expect things”  (one HUGE exception, you NEED to keep eating.  Don’t stop the core 90dayReboot mantra; Never be hungry, Never be full.  Your body NEEDS to expect food, to run well, just don’t let it expect WHAT food its getting) In fact, if you aren’t doing the recommended eating every 3 hours, that too can crack the plateau as now your body will realize it doesn’t have to hoard food, more is coming.  But I’ve written extensively on that.

So, those are the three easiest things to change.  Chances are, if you change WHAT you are doing when you work out, WHEN you are working out, and HOW/WHAT you are eating, your plateau will crack.  If it doesn’t, there are more things to consider, stress, sleep, anxiety, underlying medical conditions, are all things we can talk about for you to consider.

I write this blog for you, this like nearly every other post has been by request, you have a question? Ask.


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