Why Do People Hit A Plateau?

By Caitlin Gaudreau

“Motivation will get you started, but motivation comes and goes. It’s your discipline that will keep you going to achieve your goals. Be disciplined.” – Unknown

The dreaded plateau—whether that’s weight loss or muscle gain, we all seem to hit that spot in our training where we just can’t seem to make progress. But WHY? I sat down with Trainer Tom to get his thoughts on why people plateau.

In short, we hit a plateau when we stop progressively overloading. Take a group fitness class as an example; you join the first class and it kicks your butt, yet you keep coming back. After each class you notice that the pain the next day is less intense. Slowly, you notice that you're losing weight and gaining muscle! And then... Not so much. You’re still going to class religiously, but you just aren’t seeing the results—you stagnate. Why? Because you've continued to use the same weights in the same range of motion as when you first joined the class. I am not pointing fingers here; this is extremely hard for people to do on their own, even in a group fitness setting! Sure, the instructor may tell you to use a slightly heavier weight if you’ve done this for a while, but what is considered a slightly heavier weight? How much do you jump? You also don’t want to compromise form and you JUST got comfortable at THIS weight! It’s not easy.

This is where variety comes in. Changing up the exercises, classes, or weights that you're doing all lead to advancement. If variety is the spice of life, then think about making your workouts spicy! Focus on one program (or class) for 4-6 weeks, then change it up. Trainer Tom recommends 4-6 weeks because this allows enough time for you to learn the movements and do them safely. It also allows you to see the progress you’re making. You’ll start to see and feel the difference your hard work is making which, let's face it, is the biggest motivator to keep going! And lastly, our central nervous system is built to be efficient. So after doing the same movements for 4-6 weeks, we actually use less muscle because our bodies have adapted a more efficient way to do it. Our heart rate decreases as we get more efficient, which means that we burn less calories overall.

If you're struggling to break through a plateau, or if you're looking for a way to change up your routine to make it new, exciting and challenging again, please feel free to reach out to any of our trainers here!  You can also check out the conversation on our Facebook community group here to see how other people handle their plateau challenges. 

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