One of the main reasons why I wanted to get my personal training qualifications is because I wanted to expand my knowledge to provide you with sound advice to help you reach your goals. And one of the things that I came across on my course was weight loss and training plateaus, what really causes them and how to break through them.
We’ve all been there. Whether its a weight loss goal or a PB in the gym or the track, sometimes our progress comes to an abrupt halt and it’s usually hard to find out why. Especially when you think that you’re eating well and training correctly. Plateaus can last anything from weeks, to months or even years! Often when we hit a plateau we try to increase the frequency of our workouts or cut more calories but this usually makes things worse. When we see a dip in performance or a regression in our weight it’s usually our body’s way of waving a red flag to let us know that somethings up.
I have been chasing a sub 40minute 10km for what feels like forever, and the reason why I was finding it harder to shave minutes or even seconds off my time, despite putting the work in, is because I wasn’t putting the right kind of work in. Yes I was doing my miles but I wasn’t doing the weight training sessions which are arguably even more important than the running sessions. I’m still yet to get my sub 40 minute 10km but that’s mostly down to the lack of races this time of the year. I have booked to do the winter 10km in February and I’ll be using all that I’ve learned through studying to be a personal trainer as well as trial and error, to get my legs over the finish line in 39 minutes and something seconds.
If you’re recently hit running, weight loss or weight lifting plateau, heres 5 reasons as to what might has caused it and how to get out of it.
1) You’re not being honest with your training
How many times have you gone to the gym over the past few weeks and have really worked hard? As in, you stuck to your rest periods, didn’t cheat any reps or sets and lifted a weight that was challenging? Of course i’m not saying that every time you go to the gym you should completely blow yourself up as that would be counter productive, but what I am saying is that you’re not going to get the results from the work you didn’t put in. So if you’re meant to do 10 squats but only do 6, this could be the reason why you’re not seeing the progress you want. If you’re meant to be following a training plan in the lead up to a race but deter from it, don’t feel confused as to why you didn’t run a PB on race day. Be honest with your training. Are you really challenging yourself or are you just going to the gym so that you can say you’ve been to the gym? If you find it hard to stay motivated by yourself try working out with a friend or get a personal trainer to help keep you on track and closely monitor progress.
2) You’re not being honest with how much you’re eating
Tracking calories isn’t for everyone but if you want to lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit. So unless you have the calorie expenditure of a professional athlete in season, if weight loss is your goal you need to be aware of how much food you are consuming. Start by creating a food diary and tracking how much you eat for a week. I use my fitness pal to do this and by doing this you’ll be able to identify where you need to spend more or less of your calories. For example, I love Jacobs cream crackers but after realising just how many I can eat in a week, I’ve cut back and have saved 100s of calories without feeling starved or deprived. Do you always have 3 biscuits with your tea? Cut back to 2 and see just how much a small change can make a difference over a week. Counting calories doesn’t mean that you have to avoid food groups or starve yourself. Dieting is restrictive, tracking calories is not because you can eat anything you like within your calories. From creating a food diary you’ll identify that you’ll probably only need to cut a few calories here to drop a few pounds.
3) You’re overtraining
Although it sounds logical to increase the intensity of your training when you’re seeing a lack of progress, if you turn the gas up too high and don’t get adequate rest in-between sessions, you’re going to start regressing. If you’re feeling exhausted and have seen a dip in performance despite training several days a week, you’re probably over training. The best thing you can do is take a week off and allow your body to relax. I know that the last thing you probably want to do is take time off because you think it’ll set you further aback but honey, your body is telling you to relax. So relax and come back stronger. When you do return to training be careful not to fall back into old habits. Train smarter, not more and see the progress. Doing things such as reducing rest time between sets, performing giant sets and adjusting tempo will help increase the intensity of your sessions without overtraining. Rest days are just as important as training days so make sure you get adequate rest in-between sessions to allow your muscles to grow, repair and recover.
4) You’re not eating enough
In order to lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit, but being too much in a deficit can back fire on you. Firstly low calorie diets are hard on our metabolisms and detrimental to our long term health. But secondly, how do you expect to be able to train if you don’t have adequate fuel in your body? If you find that every time you train its hard to run the speeds or lift the weights that you used to, it could be due to a lack of fuel. Whether its a lack of carbs and calories for energy or a lack of protein to repair and build muscle, under eating could hinder your weight loss goals and performance in the gym. If you think this is you, keep a food dairy and calculate your overall calorie expenditure and intake to identify where you can add calories. I would also recommend keep a training dairy to see if you need to cut back on training whilst you get your calories up to prevent falling too far into a calorie deficit.
5) You’re training without a plan
Going to a gym without a plan is a recipe for disasters. If you don’t have a real training plan in place with a clear timeline and goals, how will you monitor or track your progress? Performing the same exercises at the same weight and intensity for 2 months because you don’t know what else to do, isn’t going to give you the progress you want. So head to the gym with a clear plan of what you are going to do in each session. Make a note of the weights lifted in each session and work towards safely increasing those weights over time. If you are new to the gym, I find that exercise classes are a great way to pick up techniques and learn new exercises. I’ll be posting lots of exercise routines on my blog for both beginners and more advanced athletes so keep an eye out over the next few weeks!
I hope that you find some of this information useful and if you’ve got anything else to add please feel free to leave me a comment in the box below. If you’re struggling to come up with a training plan or want to work with a personal trainer, drop me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your goals and get the ball rolling!