I am sure you have all heard of the dreaded plateau in regards to your fitness goals. In my mind it’s important to realize that although nobody wants to be stuck in a plateau it can actually be a good thing. A plateau happens when your body has conformed to the stimulus and there is no adaptation (or very little) left for growth. While I am going to talk about this in relation to your strength and conditioning in the gym, bear in mind that it can happen in any part of your life – relationships, careers/businesses, and spiritual growth.
We have all been (or are currently) at the start of our CrossFit journey and everyday in the gym brings about a new PR. It’s exciting and leaves you wanting more! No matter if you have previously in the gym, starting CrossFit with a consistent effort will start to yield gains in both strength and fitness on what seems to be an exponential level. You feel unstoppable and invincible. If you started with a few (or many) pounds to lose, weight starts to melt off and you’re feeling incredible. Then without any warning… you hit a wall, a plateau that stalls your progress. It can be very defeating and cause a lack of motivation to keep working hard towards your goals. This is completely counterintuitive but many people at this stage let the defeatist attitude and decrease motivation win, and their consistency wanes or they stop completely. What does this leave us with? Regression and a feeling of frustration.
Woah, nothing about that is a good thing. Lucky there is always another side to the story and here is why a plateau could be the best thing yet. When you stop progressing it is a wake up call to you (and your coach) that something needs to be changed. When you first started CrossFit, it was new not only to your mind but your body. The stimulus was completely different to what you had been doing whether that was running, lifting traditionally, or nothing. This plateau you are in means that your body is working as it should. We are always striving for homeostasis otherwise known as balance. Homeostasis isn’t where gains are made. It’s when we are out of balance, stretching outside our comfort zone, that we see the greatest changes. If your goal is to lose weight then being consistently in a hypocaloric state will help you get there. If your goal is to increase cardiovascular fitness then pushing into a feeling of uncomfortableness will help get you there. Whatever your goal, achievement will occur at the outer edges of our comfort zones.
If you’re plateauing in a gym where you have no control over the programming what can you do? Well first of all be clear on your goal. Do you want to gain strength or increase fitness? Are you looking to lose weight or gain muscle? If your goals a predominantly strength based increasing your weights is the obvious answer. But, you can also increase the weight used for the conditioning portion. You may have to check your ego at the door, because you will be going slower than usual. The inverse can be used if an increase in fitness is the goal, lighter weight means you can move faster and subsequently get your heart rate higher for a more sustained period of time. Secondly, we can look at your nutrition. Is the food you are consuming supporting these goals? And lastly is the training frequency congruent with everything else going on in your life? It’s really hard to get the most out of your body when you’re not sleeping, work stress is overwhelming and you’re fighting with your significant other. Sometimes the best thing to do, is to do less. This may sound counterintuitive but high intensity exercise is stressful on the body, and when it’s being added onto uncontrolled high stress situations it will do more harm than good.
Plateau’s can be a good thing. They bring awareness for change, whether that be ramping up or down in weights, speed, intensity or frequency. If you feel like you’re stuck in a plateau and need help, don’t hesitate to ask for it. I’m pretty sure all the coaches have been there at some point and can get you out of the rut that you’re currently in. Because the alternative will definitely not get you to any of your goals.
”When you hit a plateau you have to be willing to get a little bit worse before you get massively better.” ~Tony Robbins
Dr. Liz Marshall – Chiropractor