If you’ve been diligently following a new fitness routine but have recently started noticing that all your hard work has stopped paying off, we have a question for you:
Did you start your new routine, say, six to eight weeks ago? Or maybe six months ago if you’re weight training?
The reason we were able to infer that this might be the case is based on science. It’s not uncommon for many of our body’s physiological systems to adapt to an exercise program in about two month’s time.
This results in what we call a “plateau,” where improvements noticeably diminish — or stop altogether — due to the body adapting to repetitive training or exercise.
Say no to plateaus
Hitting a wall after hitting the gym hard for a couple of months can be really demotivating. Fortunately, the solution is as simple as changing things up a little. Here are four ways you can do just that:
1. Mix things up — literally
Did you know that something as simple as changing the order of your routine every few days can help prevent a plateau? That’s because your muscles are forced to adapt in new ways when they are used out of order.
2. Add and subtract
Don’t panic, the math you’ll be doing isn’t that complicated. Take a look at your routine and remove any exercises that you feel have become too easy (or boring!) and add in a new move or set when something else gets the cut. (Side note: Don’t ever leave warming up and cooling down out of the equation.)
3. Try something completely new.
If you’ve been doing the same aerobics class for a while now, why not opt for a spin class to change things up? Or if you like to go for a brisk morning walk, try jogging, running, or biking instead. Better yet, switch up your routine every few days to avoid a plateau before it hits.
4. Work harder, not longer.
If you don’t have the time to figure out a whole new routine, here’s a great way to save time and say no to plateaus: Cut down your sets, but up the number of reps. You’ll be challenging yourself on a whole new level — and your muscles will be newly challenged too!
Yes strain? No gain
If, since starting a new exercise routine, you’ve developed a new injury or are experiencing pain that isn’t going away, you may be overdoing it. The problem is different, but the solution is the same: You’ll need to make changes to your exercise routine.
If you aren’t sure if your workout is to blame, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I forgetting to warm up before a workout and cool down afterwards?
- Am I working out too hard and too long?
- Does my workout have me using the same muscles in a repetitive manner?
- Is my form less than perfect?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the questions above, the culprit may be your exercise program. So what changes do you need to make to avoid muscle strain and injury?
2. If you are challenging yourself to go harder and longer, it’s important that you work up to it — rather than making any drastic and sudden changes. Whether you’re incorporating more weight, more speed, or more time into your routine, the safest way to do so is incrementally. And make sure you listen to your body and know when to stop.
3. Did you know that more than 50% of fitness-related injuries are the result of repetitive motion? (No, “tennis elbow” and “golfer’s elbow” aren’t just cute nicknames these athletes give to their most used joint.) This is yet another reason to keep your fitness routine fresh, ensuring you’re using different muscles, in different ways, and even in a different order.
4. Learning the proper technique before you start a new sport or exercise program isn’t just about looking good. It’s about working out safely. If you’ve been getting your form wrong — over and over again — you are just asking for an injury. If you aren’t sure, speak with your coach, a personal trainer, or even your family doctor before getting started.
If you’re a creature of habit and don’t like the idea of having to make a drastic change to your exercise program every couple of months, the good news is that small changes can have a big impact on your body. So why not start small and make a change today?
Need some new ideas? We previously shared some fun ways to shake things up in this blog post.