Fitness Articles

Plateau Busters - Part 2

Include Adequate Rest in Your Exercise Program

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We hear it all the time—you changed your habits and lost weight steadily, but after awhile, that progress halted. You’ve been stuck at the same weight for days, weeks, or even months. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying your best, feeling like you are doing everything right, yet not making any progress towards your weight loss or fitness goals.
 
Before you inhale a bag of cookies to console yourself, realize that weight loss takes work, and isn’t always perfect. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can re-energize your program (and motivation) to bust through your weight loss plateau. 
 
But…what is a plateau anyway?
If you’ve been exercising and cutting calories for several weeks, and you’re no longer seeing the same results that you experienced in the beginning, then you’ve probably hit a plateau. This occurs when your progress comes to a standstill, and can be described as not making any “gains” (such as improving your fitness level or losing weight), but not necessarily moving backwards (losing endurance or gaining weight).
 
Because every individual is unique, there’s no way to actually predict when a plateau might happen. However, the following principles of nutrition, rest, and variation will jumpstart your body, mind, and metabolism. (This article, part 2 in a series of 3, will focus on rest. Click here to read Part 1 first.) Incorporate some or all of the following suggestions to both prevent and overcome a weight loss plateau. With just a little tweaking, you’ll be in your skinny jeans in no time!
 
Include Adequate Rest in Your Exercise Program

1.  Always allow 1-2 days of rest between working muscle groups. During a strength training session, tiny tears occur in your muscle fibers, which cause that all-too-common muscle soreness that lasts about 1-2 days after lifting weights. In order for those tiny tears to repair themselves—rebuilding as stronger muscles than before—you MUST rest those muscles. For example, if you lifted arms on Monday, you should wait at least one day, preferably two, before overloading those muscles again (Wednesday or Thursday). If you don’t rest long enough for repair to occur, you will actually get weaker, which is the opposite of everyone’s goals, and a common plateau-causing culprit. (For an in-depth look at strength training, check out SparkPeople’s Reference Guide to Strength Exercise.)  
 
2.  Try active recovery. Research shows that engaging in lower intensity exercise after a strenuous workout session may be more beneficial than resting completely. There are two types of active recovery. The first is the typical cool down phase that you perform at the end of your workout. Properly cooling down has been shown to help your muscles recover faster, and reduce the levels of lactic acid in the muscles. The second type of active recovery involves exercising lightly in the days following a hard workout. So, rather than taking a day or two off from the gym, consider exercising at a lighter intensity level (go for an easy walk and follow up with some stretching, or try some gentle exercises such as yoga, for example). In addition to helping your muscles rebound, active recovery has also shown to enhance relaxation and psychological recovery.
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About The Author

Nicole Nichols Nicole Nichols
Nicole was named "America's Top Personal Trainer to Watch" in 2011. A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, she loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Her DVDs "Total Body Sculpting" and "28 Day Boot Camp" (a best seller) are available online and in stores nationwide. Read Nicole's full bio and blog posts.

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Member Comments

  • Really awesome. - 9/21/2013 6:57:11 PM
  • KATHLEAN12
    As I age I find that I am not able to sleep as long as I used to. How do I deal with that? - 2/1/2013 4:23:27 PM
  • I understand that sleep, from a physiological perspective, its needed. But, many of us got here because our lives are filled with too many responsibilities. We did not exercise because of time. I only fit in my workouts by waking up at 4 am. I will no longer sacrifice exercise for sleep. For me, as I imagine it is for others, that is the only choice we face. Hopefully, the other recommendationa work to bust this plateau. - 1/11/2012 10:56:19 AM
  • CIRANDELLA
    Fabulous, all of them! - 8/4/2011 8:09:27 AM
  • Unfortunately 8 (or more) hours of sleep is impractical for many of us. I work full time (and then some) - typically 50-60 hours a week, plus I'm in school full-time. Once I graduate (May of this year!!), I will possibly have the opportunity to get to bed a little earlier, but if I want that 8 hours of sleep I have to cut out something (exercise??) because I don't have that many hours in my day... - 3/10/2011 1:26:50 PM
  • excellent! - 12/25/2010 2:15:11 AM
  • QUEENRO
    I will take from each of your comments and the article and see what works to help me break this month long plateau. - 9/4/2010 1:15:01 PM
  • 8 hours??!???! *&($#*&%#_*#$&#&$
    #

    maybe that's why..... - 7/30/2010 6:25:53 PM
  • CICICICICICI
    Ok, maybe I need to rest a bit. I've been on a 60 day yoga challenge, doing yoga for 90 minutes a day, every day. I am at 34 days now. I wonder if I need to choose between finishing my challenge and losing weight. I love the way my back and legs feel due to yoga, but I'd like to see some more muscle gain or weight loss. PERHAPS I will take a day off every so often. hmm... Everything is a choice. ;-) - 7/9/2010 11:59:54 AM
  • BAMBINA_91764 and others: I hit a six week plateau that was driving me crazy. I talked to our employee wellness person, showed her what I was eating, my exercise schedule, etc. She suggested cutting out 200 calories and adding an additional half hour walk. It worked! I lost 8 pounds in about 6 weeks. - 7/8/2010 2:52:29 PM
  • i had a neighbor that told me she took a day off once a week usually it was a saturday or sunday, depending on her and her family''s schedule.. she would fast and stay in bed most of the day. raising a family is a 24 hour, seven day a week job. a wife and or mother deserves one day off. she looked thinner and well rested on monday. i hit a plateau for three weeks and decided to try it. it works and i feel great. years ago when we had more stay-at-home moms and not the frantic overprogrammed lifestyle of today, the day of rest was sunday and people knew fasting and rest was good once in a while!!!! - 7/8/2010 6:30:29 AM
  • I agree with everything except the advice to sleep "AT LEAST 8 hours" a night - having just been through an aggressive regimen with my sleep specialist including overnight studies, I've learned a lot about how different people need different amounts of sleep. Long story short, 8 hours+ per night is NOT for everyone. As long as you can get roughly 6 hours of quality (as unbroken as possible) sleep per night, most people are fine. Some need 8 hours, some need as little as 5-6. This is NOT a one size fits all situation, and encouraging people in the 5-6 hour group to try to sleep 8 hours will not work and might make things worse. - 6/21/2010 9:48:50 AM
  • BAMBINA_91764
    I joined a local gym back in July. After all this time I have not noticed much change. I am obviously doing something wrong. Unfortunately for me, being a single mom on a low budget doesn not allow me the option of getting a personal trainer much less a diet consultant. I would like to lose 20 pounds however without the proper assistance I am willing to settle at 15. Any suggestions?...pl
    ease help. - 3/25/2010 10:11:34 AM
  • I have been in denial, and now I must admit I am in a plateau. This series of articles brings that reality crashing home.......I know what needs to be done. Sigh!! - 3/8/2010 9:24:32 AM
  • Duh me! It just occurred to me that I've only been getting 6 hours of sleep per night as of late. Could this have been causing my 2+ month long plateau? I mean, with other factors considered as well. I'll read the 3rd part of this series!
    Pale - 1/19/2010 4:38:35 PM
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