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Kick your fitness results to the next level

Linda Melone, CSCS, is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and certified personal trainer based in Orange County, CA. Visit her website at www.LindaMelone.com.

How to bust the exercise plateau

Starting an exercise program is like a new relationship. In the beginning, you have high hopes -- you're motivated and charmed by your new venture, and believe you can happily work out for the rest of your life. After three to six months, however, this honeymoon phase may come to a screeching halt, and instead of looking forward to each exercise session, you're now bored and complacent. Worse, you’ve hit the dreaded exercise plateau. Don’t break up with your fitness routine -- simply kick it up a notch.

Woman stretching before run

What is an exercise plateau?


An exercise plateau occurs because our bodies readily adapt to change. If you go on an extreme diet, for example, your metabolism slows (goes into "starvation mode"), making it harder to lose those last few pounds. On the positive side, increased muscle tone and strength are desirable results of the body's adaptive capabilities. In order to continue seeing those positive results, however, you need to make regular upgrades to your fitness routine.

How to kick up your fitness program to get results

Research shows that approximately 50 percent of new exercisers quit within six months of starting a program -- and lack of results ranks among the top 10 reasons. Instead of joining those who have given up on fitness, evaluate your current exercise program to find areas you can kick up a notch. Here's how:

1Upgrade your cardio routine

If your cardiovascular fitness program needs tweaking, try the following:

  • Get out: If you regularly train indoors, go outside; try biking, running, swimming, tennis, etc.
  • Join a fitness club: Join an outdoor activity club for extra motivation and friendly competition.
  • Go interval: Practice interval training to burn more calories: Alternate periods of intense exercise with rest instead of performing at the same steady pace for the entire stretch.
  • Keep your heart rate up: Exercise with a heart rate monitor to ensure that you're working hard enough.
  • Train for an event: Check out www.teamintraining.com for events near you and help raise money for a worthy cause as you get in shape.

2Ramp up your resistance training

Add variety to your weight training program to get fitness results and help you stick with it:

  • Go free: If you use machines, try free weights; if you use free weights, incorporate some machines. Mix it up.
  • Get professional help: Hire a personal trainer to help you change your routine.
  • Meld mind and body: Add yoga, Pilates or tai chi for a change.
  • Cut to the core: Incorporate balance challenges for core stability: use stability balls, balance boards and/or foam rollers.
  • Use fitness tools: Incorporate medicine balls or tubing into your fitness routine for variety.

3Understand your body and fitness level

Keep in mind that you'll see results fastest when you start out. If you're a seasoned exerciser it's more difficult to notice changes because you're beyond the initial adaptation phase. Don't despair! You'll still experience changes, just not as fast as in the beginning.

Ditch the scale for a better relationship with Y-O-U

In addition, don't use the scale as your only measure of success. If you feel better about yourself, your clothes fit better (or even loosely!) and you've developed healthier eating and exercise habits, you're on the right track. Because after all, the relationship you have with yourself is a lifetime commitment.

More ways to kick up your fitness routine

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