Stagnant. That's not really a goal, ever, of any successful fitness program. Yet, we ALL hit a plateau at some point. You're making progress, getting stronger, achieving new skills, feeling more confident...and then a few weeks go by and you're hitting the same numbers, stuck on a skill, feeling just "meh" about the workout you just did.
It happens. Here's what to do about it.
First off, let's tackle the mentality. Stay positive. Stay realistic. Stay mentally strong.
Remember how success actually works. Having a bad day, or even a bad week, is NOT the same as hitting a plateau. Needing to take a week off is a normal part of exercise training. Going light because of soreness is totally OK. Accept that this is what progress actually looks like:
Look back at your progress (which should be logged in some type of journal, notebook, or phone app). Maybe you are being too hard on yourself. Progress that lasts happens gradually. You will not set a new PR every week for the rest of your fitness career, especially if you have been at it for a while. If you can see a gradual increase in ability over time, re-evaluate your expectations of yourself. If you look back and see a significant chunck of time (several weeks to months) where there is no progress to be found, you've hit a plateau.
Sometimes we hit temporary plateaus because our body is adjusting. You just hit a new clean & jerk max, so all the lifting we base off of percentages just went up for you, wearing you out before the workouts. You recently began running in the mornings and haven't been able to perform pistols in a workout since. You have to get used to new stimulus and that takes time. Keep your head down and put in the work. Take this time to rest and adjust. Go after new accomplishments when your body says it's ready. These temporary plateaus will go away with patience and steady work.
Other times, we need to actively bust out of our funk.
What is your limiter? What is keeping you where you are?
Before you can get off of your plateau, you need to identify what's keeping you there.
Typical limiters include:
-A lifestyle that doesn't support fitness (no sleep, eating/drinking garbage, etc.)
-Not knowing why you are exercising in the first place
-No set goals
-No accountability or commitment
-Not enjoying yourself
-Staying in your comfort zone
-Not taking time to recuperate
Answer the following 8 questions to address your possible limiter:
1: Are you getting enough sleep?
There is no replacement for good sleep at night. "I just don't have the time, I'll sleep when I'm dead" doesn't fly. If you're ok staying on that plateau forever, you needn't make sleep a priority. But if health is important to you, whether you CrossFit or not, you need adequate sleep. Yes, even if you have kids. Yes, even if you have work left to do. Yes, even if you can take a nap during the day. Make sleep at night happen! How much? However much it takes for you to feel well rested and energized, whether that's 4 hours or 10.
2. Are you eating what your body needs and avoiding what your body does not?
You cannot continue to build muscle, increase your cardio ability, or learn new skills if you aren't fueling your body with what it needs. If things like fatigue, chronic or recurring headaches, upset stomach, hunger, etc. are keeping you from being able to push yourself past this plateau, you may want to look into your nutrition and even blood testing to make sure you're properly nurished.
3. Do you have goals?
Why are you here working out? What do you want to get out of this? If you don't know where you are going, you can't begin to climb off of your plateau up Progress Mountain -- you'll end up circling it instead of ascending it. Make goals, write them down somewhere you will see them every day (like our Goal Board in the gym), and work toward them. If a certain body image is what you want, take a picture of yourself in the same outfit every few months to see if what you're doing is working. If certain movements or weights are the goal, write them down and work on them every week.
4. Do your coaches know your goals and how to push you?
Keep your coaches in the know. Update us when your goals change. We are here to guide you on how to achieve your goals. Tell us how you want to be coached and what helps you learn. Some examples of what people have asked of me during classes:
-Yell at me to stop resting, even if I don't want to listen.
-Don't give me a correction while I'm moving, wait until I'm taking a break.
-Explain it differently, I don't understand the way you put it.
-Draw me a picture.
-My goal is to go fast today, so I don't want to go very heavy.
-I'm not comfortable when you physically touch me.
-Can you just do it in front of me while I'm doing it so I can mimic you?
-I want to get 5 reps, talk me through this set to push me to 5.
-I want to do the weight, but that's too many reps. How can I scale this?
-That movement is uncomfortable, what can I do differently/to fix it?
5. Are you challenging yourself?
Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Tell yourself you can and then prove it to yourself. Do something a little bigger, better, harder than yesterday. Then, tomorrow, do that again, and again. Before you know it, a month has gone by and all of those baby challenges have amounted to one huge, recognizable gain.
6. Are you competing with someone else?
A little friendly competition with someone around your fitness skill and strength level is healthy, as long as you use the competition to push you UP not push you DOWN. Competing with someone else and keeping a positive mindset about it will result in one of two thoughts: "Wow, I lifted 5 pounds more than she did and finished the work-out ahead of her! Yay me!" or "Dang! He outlifted me today, but I think I can get him tomorrow on the workout. I'll just have to really challenge myself." It will also motiviate whoever you're competing with because they will notice..."CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!"
7. Are you taking breaks?
Our gym rarely offers Sunday access because we know the importance of a rest day. Occasionally, you need time off. A day, a few days, a week. Whatever it takes. So many people are terrified of losing out on even just one workout, fearful it will put them behind. I've seen it time and time again: someone comes back from vacation and achieves something unexpected. You come back with a fresh perspective, a rested body, and a more open mind. Take time off when you need it and if you don't know how to tell when you need it, ask a coach if they think now is the time for you.
8. Are you still having fun?
If you are no longer enjoying your fitness routine, something needs to change. Spice up your music, invite friends to join you, or change what you are doing. Don't continue to follow an exercise routine if you are not enjoying it. Instead, find some form of exercise you find fun and look forward to every day.
Have you recently conquered a plateau? Are you stuck on one now? Share your experiences!