Break That Darn Plateau!

9259069734_9142087a4d_n Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results—Albert Einstein.  Seriously, I wonder why those brilliant words aren’t plastered on the walls of every gym across the globe. As a Personal Trainer, I’ve been observing people working out in different capacities over the last fifteen years. It grieves me to say that many gym members come in regularly, yet never get results. Having spent so much time in this arena, I know there are a multitude of reasons for this gridlock, but I want to zero-in on one common culprit that many people face, yet rarely consider. A huge part of this dilemma stems from an individual’s unwillingness to step out of his/her comfort zone. Most people only think about a plateau as it relates to their work out routine, when they’ve hit a wall and can’t seem to progress any farther. However, the discomfort that’s involved in breaking a plateau isn’t limited by how you exercise, it includes your personal eating patterns as well. In order to bust through a plateau, whether this pertains to exercise, nutrition, or both; change is necessary and that’s usually accompanied by some level of discomfort.

From a nutrition standpoint, are you unwilling to give up particular foods or beverages, processed junk, and excess sugar? Do you go to the same restaurants and place the same orders over and over? Are you opposed to preparing healthy meals because it involves too much work? Do you always eat on the fly? Can you delay gratification? Do you always cave-in during social gatherings? Are you an emotional eater? Rest assured, if you’re stuck in a rut with poor eating patterns, this is just as problematic as doing the same thing over and over again in the gym every day and never being challenged properly. Consequently, without a good-quality nutrition plan, this poses a major hurdle for anyone who sincerely wants to get healthy and experience real results—weight loss, increased energy, toned muscles, faster metabolism, etc.

What you eat is absolutely crucial if you expect to reach your health and fitness goals for reasons too numerous to list. That’s because many of those reasons aren’t skin-deep. Good nutrition extends far beyond counting calories or monitoring your portion size. For instance, there are certain foods which are known to commonly cause inflammation inside the human body. Eating these same foods over and over takes a toll on your liver, kidneys, intestines, and gall bladder. Digestive inflammation reduces your ability to properly digest, absorb and utilize nutrients effectively. Suffering from this toxic overload makes you crave more food and has a negative impact on your metabolism and weight.

Fortunately, there’s a loophole. Detoxification is a great way to cleanse your internal organs from these food sensitivities. There are numerous detox programs on the market. An excellent one that I’ve tried myself and absolutely love is called D.TOX, and it’s available through Life Time Fitness. In the detoxification process, you have to be willing to experience some discomfort and potential side effects. This includes grocery shopping, preparing foods, giving up coffee, wheat bread, alcohol, processed sugar, and so on. As you detox from foods on the non-approved list and follow the basic guidelines, this program will go to work on rejuvenating your digestive system. Additional benefits may include weight loss, lower body fat, increased energy, and more. The D.TOX program is only two weeks long, but it could improve your health and transform your eating patterns forever. Of course if you have a medical condition, be sure to seek the advice of a physician before beginning any nutrition program. Click here for more information.

Now let’s shift gears back to exercise. Before explaining how to break through a plateau in your work out regime, let me give you a little background on Christine, one of my clients. Overweight and out of shape, Christine claimed she went through her entire life never having a waist. Two years ago when she first started training with me, everything changed. Today at fifty years old, Christine looks better than she ever did in her twenties. Not only is she very pleased with her newfound waist, she’s proud of her entire body. Now, she has a toned booty that her husband adoringly refers to as beach-butt. She is stronger, leaner, and her posture has improved significantly. Christine worked hard and made the necessary changes in her diet to lose weight, decrease her body fat, build cardiovascular endurance, and so on. She’s a walking billboard for my business and insists that one day she’ll get a tattoo which says: Body by Nadia.

With that said, Christine still trains with me every week for maintenance. A few weeks ago, part of her session included a short high-intensity interval on the treadmill. For those who don’t understand what an interval is, please refer to pages 232-234 in my book: The Proactive Health Solution. In brief, there are many types of interval programs and ideally, it’s best to know your training zones to alternate the intensity by monitoring your heart rate. On this particular day, here’s what Christine’s interval looked like:

    • Warm-Up: Two minutes in Zone One
    • Two minutes in Zone Two
    • One minute to recover
    • Repeat (minus warm-up)
    • Two minutes in Zone Three
    • Two minutes to Cool-Down

Incidentally, if you want to try interval training, remember the time it takes to recover is different for everyone. During intervals, the goal of recovery is to drop your heart rate 20-30 beats before progressing into the next zone. Ideally, this should take a minute or less, but that also depends on your fitness level. For some people (especially beginners) recovery time could take much longer. To discover your training zones, click here.

So what does this background about Christine have to do with breaking through a plateau? Well, while Christine was in the middle of interval training, next to her on the treadmill was an ornery lady (I’ll call her Sally) who offered us her unsolicited opinion. Sally was quite hostile when she claimed that Christine’s intensity level changes on the treadmill sounded too painful and boring. She indignantly professed that it would be more pleasant for Christine to walk comfortably at the same pace. Being professional, I held my tongue. Why? Public gyms don’t discriminate—most are available to everyone for different reasons, however obscure those reasons may be. Obviously, Sally doesn’t have any tangible fitness goals and that’s her prerogative. She does however, present a classic case of exactly what NOT to do if you expect to break a plateau and get results.

Sally goes on the same treadmill every day, sets it at the same leisurely pace with no incline, and stays on for a half hour while holding onto the handle bars. Then she leaves the gym. No weight training, no sweating, no grunting, no huffing and puffing, no real exertion, no need for recovery, and certainly no results! Physically, Sally is no better off than when she joined the gym over six years ago. Needless to say, she looks very weak and unhealthy. But Sally is not only weak physically, she’s also weak mentally, because she didn’t even realize that my client was having fun! Christine found the interval enjoyable, challenging, and rewarding; not boring and painful.  So the moral of the story when it comes to breaking any plateau: Do something different, work hard, push through some discomfort, and definitely don’t be a Sally!

This holiday season, give the gift of health. The Proactive Health Solution book is an incredibly valuable resource for you or your loved ones.  Start the New Year being proactive with your health. Click here to order your copy today.

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5 thoughts on “Break That Darn Plateau!

  1. This is just what I needed to read! I recently lost 17 lbs. then hit a plateau. I got so discouraged that I started to go in the opposite direction. Now I am only 9 lbs. down. I am not going to gain any more weight however! This ends now! I do not need to give up! This is the time to dig in harder! I need to go back to monitoring my calorie intake and make working out a priority as I did when I lost the weight. I need to keep running, even though it is not easy. I need to feel a little discomfort. No pain means I gain! Thank you for renewing my spirit with this blog!

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  2. I enjoyed reading this article Nadia! I am struggling to lose 10 lbs that menopause gave me. I do spin twice a week, strength training at least 3 times a week and treadmill at least 3 times a week. I eat healthier than anyone I know but can’t lose a pound! Any suggestions?

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    • As the article mentioned, I think trying a detox program can definitely be helpful! Menopause is a big ordeal for many women because the weight just creeps on even if you have been eating right and exercising regularly. Metabolism slows down something fierce which means you naturally burn 400-500 calories less per month and the weight you gain usually goes straight to mid-section. I would start with a detox program first and see if you don’t lose weight that way. During detox you can still eat ‘normal’ foods, but there are things to avoid such as wheat, corn, processed sugar, etc. Good luck!

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