The first six weeks of an exercise program are sort of like the beginning of any relationship. It’s new, you’re excited to learn the workouts, you start to notice changes in your body, and the newness keeps you motivated and scooting back for more.
What gives? Well, if you’re showing up and putting in the time, but not seeing the results you hoped for, there’s a good chance you’ve hit a fitness plateau.
Considered the master of motivation killers, a fitness plateau can stall your physical progress and sap your drive to stay active. If you haven’t experienced one yet, consider yourself lucky; at some point in a workout program, you’re going to come face-to-face with this annoying aspect of exercise.
Why did everything come to a complete halt?
“Plateaus can be brought on because of reasons relating to the body or the mind,” says Greg Chertok, M.Ed, CMPC, certified mental performance consultant, Telos Sport Psychology Coaching. There may be some obvious physical reasons your progress has stalled: your workout is getting stale, your body is adjusting to the load and intensity, you may be stuck in the same movement patterns, or muscular fatigue has set in from overuse or lack of rest. Or, your energy levels are lower than usual and something completely unrelated to exercise is sapping your energy (work project, stress at home, etc.), which can contribute to lower energy in the gym.
There can also be mental reasons we hit a plateau. Mental blocks (that can also contribute to physical plateaus) form in a number of ways. “Perhaps you’ve been convinced or persuaded by someone else (parent, coach, partner, etc.) that you’re just not equipped to do something or achieve a higher level of fitness in a particular area,” Chertok explains.