plateau

Break Through Fitness Plateaus with These 4 Tips

Dana Bender
Dana Bender
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It is important to change up our personal fitness program when we experience a plateau.. Similarly, it is essential to adjust our fitness program when we notice boredom or disinterest in our exercise program. Lastly, if we no longer feel challenged or see the physical fitness benefits that we are used to, it can be a telling sign that a fitness program change is necessary.

Over the years, as both a personal trainer and fitness manager, I have seen many clients plateau with their fitness program for a variety of reasons. Those reasons have ranged from not overloading their neuromuscular system properly, overtraining with inadequate recovery, to not changing up their fitness program often enough.  Due to these reasons, it is integral to try new things, expand our comfort zones, and strive to new limits. 

Listed below are some ideas and tips to successfully break through fitness plateaus. And for more on this subject, we have a PDF you can download with a lot more information

1. CHANGE FREQUENCY

Change up the frequency of how often you are doing specific pieces of your fitness program.  Before making a change, it is essential to consider your baseline and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How frequently are you doing a specific exercise type such as running, biking, or weight-training?
  • Is it too little or too much?
  • How often are you strength training the same muscle group each week or utilizing the same exercises?  

Remember, too much or too little can limit our success and decrease motivation and excitement.  

2. SHIFT INTENSITY

Consider shifting the intensity of your workouts to reduce monotony and increase the physical challenge.  Ask yourself how hard you tend to work while exercising. Remember, if we work out too hard to the point of over exercise or injury, it can limit our desire to use it. 

 You can also change up the parameters of your exercise prescription to make a change. For example, you might consider changing up their program’s FITT principles (FITT stands for frequency, intensity, time, and type of exercise).  

Changing these specific fitness principles can help you improve results, increase motivation towards exercise, reduce boredom, and counteract a plateau.

Either too much intensity, or too little, can impact your exercise motivation and commitment.  When we do not increase the demands of our workout or challenge ourselves enough, it can also thwart our best intentions. 

As a reminder, to continuously improve with our fitness goals, we need to overload the neuromuscular system with physical demands continually. If we do not do this and our body gets used to the status quo, we will not see the results we desire.

3. TRY SOMETHING NEW

One way that individuals can adjust their program and create a new fitness plan is to work with a personal trainer. This can help individuals experience a more intense workout, incorporate new ideas into their current regime, and/or obtain a fresh new program. 

Overall, do not be afraid to try something new and change up your mode of exercise. If you are a long-term runner but feel bored with running, why not try something different? Do you feel burnout from weight training? What about swimming a few days during the week to change up the resistance workout?

Similarly, if you have always wanted to take a dance class but never have, now is the time. Making these types of changes might be what you need to reset motivation.  Ask yourself what sounds exciting or fun and try that. Even if it's short-term behavior, it might be the break you need from your current exercise modality or program to re-energize and re-motivate.

4.   BE FLEXIBLE

Trying something new or changing up what you are used to can be daunting. Furthermore, it can be hard to be a beginner again with a brand new fitness program or exercise modality. 

However, it is more important to push ourselves outside our comfort zone.  In either situation, it is essential to keep a flexible mindset and be patient with yourself along the way.  The ability to adapt and adjust our planned efforts when needed is critical for our long-term fitness progress.

Conclusion: Listen to Your Body and Then Make a Plan! 

It is important to stay receptive to what our body is telling us. Staying responsive to our own internal cues of disinterest and boredom, and what our response to exercise is telling us, is an essential first step. The second step is to create a plan to adjust one’s exercise program.   

Additionally, shifting frequency, intensity, flexibility, and trying new things is a surefire way to break through fitness plateaus. 

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The Author

Dana Bender

Dana Bender

Dana Bender, MS, ACSM, CWWS, E-RYT. Dana Bender works as a fitness and wellness Program Manager for Health Fitness Corporation in downtown Chicago. Dana is also a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, an adjunct professor with Rowan University, and an E-RYT 200 hour Registered Yoga Alliance Teacher.