Plateau Busters - Part 2

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.
3.  Get plenty of sleep. While most people are familiar with the concepts of rest, not everyone equates resting with sleeping. However, a significant amount of muscle repair occurs during your slumber. In turn, inadequate amounts of shut-eye hinder your ability to recover from exercise, making plateaus more likely. While every individual’s needs for sleep are different, most experts recommend getting AT LEAST 8 hours per night. Make sure this sleep is consistent during the week and through the weekends. After all, there is no real way to play catch-up when it comes to sleeping. If you are exercising intensely (long workouts most days of the week, or training for events such as marathons), your need for sleep may be even higher—up to 10 hours a night or more!

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Member Comments

Good article. Report
good points Report
Good article. What people need to do is glean what can help them. Report
The exercises I hate most is crunches or abdominal are workouts, this is where I need to start focusing. Report
Really awesome. Report
As I age I find that I am not able to sleep as long as I used to. How do I deal with that? Report
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. Report
Fabulous, all of them! Report
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... Report
excellent! Report
I will take from each of your comments and the article and see what works to help me break this month long plateau. Report
8 hours??!???! *&($#*&%#_*#$&#&$

maybe that's why..... Report
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. ;-) Report
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. Report
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!!!! Report


About The Author

Nicole Nichols
Nicole Nichols
A certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with a bachelor's degree in health education, Nicole loves living a healthy and fit lifestyle and helping others do the same. Nicole was formerly SparkPeople's fitness expert and editor-in-chief, known on the site as "Coach Nicole." Make sure to explore more of her articles and blog posts.