You’ve been hitting the gym hard and cleaning up your nutrition. You’ve stuck with it and its been paying off. The weight is going down, you’ve lost 5, 10, or even 20lbs. You’re progress has been great and you’re motivated to keep going. And then it happens, The dreaded plateau. The scale that used to bump down a couple pounds every week is now stuck. At first you thought you could just tighten up your nutrition and work a little harder in the gym and you’ll be back on track, but the weight is being stubborn. Plateaus can happen at any time and they can be extremely frustrating. It can be a challenge to stick with your fitness when you aren’t seeing the results. Results were the reason for starting in the first place. You wouldn’t keep going to work if you didn’t get a paycheck, right? So how do you stay motivated? How do you stick with it when it feels like the hard work isn’t paying off?
It’s not just about the weight.
As satisfying as it may be to see the scale moving in the right direction that’s not the only benefit or result you are experiencing. In fact, weight loss is usually the by-product of adopting healthier lifestyle and it’s your health that is the most important thing. When the scale stops moving take a minute to reflect on how far you’ve come and appreciate how much healthier you are now. Think about how you used to eat compared to your current nutrition. Think about how much stronger you are. You’re accomplishing things that you couldn’t do a few weeks or months ago. Stay focused on your health and the weight will (eventually) take care of itself.
Think of the big picture.
Progress feels good and not just in fitness or weight loss but in all aspects of life. Unfortunately in fitness, as in life, things don’t always keep getting better the way we want them to. If the scale hasn’t been going down, or (gasp) its even been going up, that doesn’t mean you haven’t made amazing progress. Focus on the overall trend not just what happened this week. If you’ve lost 5 lbs in the last month don’t freak out because you gained one pound back. You’re still moving in the right direction. There will be ups and downs on your journey. It’s important that you embrace this and don’t beat yourself up over it.
Take a breather
If you’ve been working out consistently and the scale has stopped going down your natural tendency may be to do more; cut more calories out of your diet, work out harder for longer, go to the gym six days a week instead of four. Unfortunately this won’t necessarily yield you the results you’re looking for. Even if it does short term you may be putting yourself at higher risk for burn out, fatigue, or even injury down the road. All these things will actually set you back more in the long run. Instead of doubling down on your efforts it may be more beneficial to take a break. That’s right TAKE A BREAK. As difficult as the idea sounds it may be exactly what your body needs. Our bodies need rest in order to recover and repair. It’s during the recovery that our bodies adapt and we make progress. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating you say, “Screw it” and sit on the couch with a bucket of fried chicken. Although that does sound awesome, rest and recovery may consist of light activity. Take some time to go to yoga, walk the dog in the evening or take you kids to the park. Just stay active but drop the volume and intensity. When you hit the gym again you will feel rested, your muscles will feel fresh, your mind and body will be strong and ready to get back to work and chances are the scale will start moving again.
Focus on the task rather than the outcome
When athletes train for a sport or competition they aren’t focused on their weight. For them it’s all about improving their skills and athleticism to accomplish what they want on the field. Taking a similar approach can help you break out of the mindset of being focused on your weight. Pick a skill you want to learn in the gym and make that your priority. It can be improving your running form, building up your mileage, perfecting your squat, or making your dead lift stronger. All of these goals are great because they will keep you working on your fitness while getting you out of the weight rut. Setting goals that have nothing to do with weight loss will add dimension to your fitness. Achieving these goals will give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you going until the scale starts moving again.
Your fitness journey is not a straight shot the end goal. There will be ups, downs and stalls in that road but redirecting your focus and giving your body the rest it needs will help get over that hump.