Routine Vs. Reward
…a simple change can make the difference
By Paul Fajer
So you’ve hit a wall. Your results are minimizing, you are starting to feel burned out, you’re not making the gains or losses that you once did. This can be a very frustrating place to be. Well, the answer to plateauing is more simple and fun than you think. Returning to the world of beneficial results is as simple as changing what you do and how you do it.
Now, assuming that anyone reading this not a top tier elite athlete that has reached peak performance gains from the olympic level methodology of apexing every 4 years… I can safely say that you have plateaued because you have been doing the same thing for too long. Your body has become efficient at performing the same lifts, movements, exercises and workouts and doesn’t have to adapt. Simply put, your body has gotten used to what you’re doing and you are no longer creating change.
The entire human organism is a creature built on adaptation to stimulus in order to survive. When you first learn a movement or exercise, it’s difficult. But over time your body gets better at it, using less energy to perform the same movement. This basic primordial function can work against us inside the gym if we’re not careful! The more we engage in the same stimulus, the more adapted we become to said stimulus. So in order to get faster, stronger, leaner, more agile or more flexible, you have to keep changing what you do inside the gym!
Plateauing in your workout is common, because we have been taught for decades that we need a fitness “routine”. In reality? Routine is the enemy. This is a methodology made popular by P90X and CrossFit, in which the programs intentionally promote randomness or change in the workouts so your body can’t adapt as quickly, if ever, to the stimulus. This elongates the effectiveness of the workout program because gains can still be made.
If you cannot change what you do, change the intensity of how you do it. Lifting heavier, moving faster, or doing more work in a shorter amount of time creates a higher intensity workout. Intensity is the single most important factor responsible for almost every positive physiological change that we want to occur inside the body. From burning fat, building muscle, increasing VO2, becoming better at a sport or skill etc… intensity of your workout is the key. Plateauing in your fitness goals can mean that you are no longer working at a high enough intensity to create change. If you really need a solid routine, keeping pushing the boundaries of how quickly you perform your workouts, how heavy you lift, and be sure to change your routine every 4-6 weeks depending on your goals.
Not all exercises are equal. The higher the skill level of the exercises you perform, the more intense your workout can be, and the less quickly you’ll adapt to the same stimulus. Functional movements (like squatting, deadlifting, sprinting, kettlebell swings and olympic lifts etc…) are so complex and require such a high degree of skill to learn-and-master that the process of improvement continues to create adaptation. So, you can continue to get the same benefit from striving to master functional movements as you did when you first learned it!
This is also true of your food intake. Eating the same foods repetitively can halt your fitness goals because your body is not being exposed to the widest variety of macronutrients, vitamins and minerals. Nutritional variety is a key success of many different fitness goals. Try to combine foods differently each time you prepare a meal, or prepare the same foods in different ways to alter texture and taste. Shop for new things at the grocery store, try new recipes and never be afraid to broaden your palette. Eat the rainbow, not just a single color!
The answer to plateauing is simple; change what you’re doing as often as possible. At our Clubs this so easy! We have a huge breadth of classes, trainers, equipment and programs! Check our group exercise class schedules and try something you’ve never done. Visit our pools to swim or come lift in our functional fitness areas. Play basketball, racquetball or tennis! Try pilates, spin class, yoga, zumba and sculpt! Use us to break out of your fitness routine and stay on the path of steady results! If for some reason you do get stuck in a plateau, or have a question you don’t know how to answer, talk to our personal training staff with your questions and we’ll see if we can sort you out. It’s okay to plateau, it’s not okay to stay plateaued. Routines create ruts; change creates adaptation.
Don’t get comfortable in your routine! Break out!
Paul Fajer received his B.S. In Kinesiology with an emphasis on exercise science and a minor in nutrition at University of Central Arkansas in Conway, AR in 2010. He is currently Level 1 CrossFit certified and an ACE certified personal trainer.