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"Break the Workout Plateau" #9 Tips for getting in better shape!

Posted Sep 19 2012 7:42pm
It’s easy to start an exercise program. But if you’re serious about getting in shape this year, you have to find a way to keep going after the initial excitement and results wear off. Adding variety and expert motivational tools will get you through those early plateaus and make fitness a way of life. Here are 9 trainers’ tips… 
You start an exercise program full of drive and determination: This summer, I will wear a two-piece on the beach! But soon, you stop seeing results and start making excuses to skip exercising. Workout plateaus are normal, but they can quickly derail your exercise plan. They’re also one of the reasons more than half of people who start an exercise program quit within 3-6 months, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.If you give up then, you’ll miss out – just when you’re likely to start seeing results.Understanding why plateaus occur and finding ways to prevent or overcome them will help you stick with your program. Read on for 9 ways to stay motivated – and keep seeing results – while getting in shape.

Plateau breaker #1: Change up your routine. Variety is the key to success in an exercise program.If you do the same workout at the same time, place and intensity, your body is going to adjust to it.You’ll still be experiencing benefits and getting fit, but you won’t see the same level of improvement you did in the beginning.The burn-out can be psychological too. Not only will you get bored with the same old moves, you’ll experience less of a boost from the “feel-good” chemicals – serotonin and endorphins.It’s like seeing your favorite movie over and over again. After a while, it loses its appeal.To stay motivated, change your workout routine, the time of day and place you exercise – any variables you can control. If you’ve been working out alone, try a class, or find new exercise routines on DVDs or YouTube.

Plateau breaker #2: Move with the seasons. Changing your workout plan according to the weather can help you with getting in shape. It keeps your routine from getting stale and kick-starts your results too.
Alter your program every 8-12 weeks, or when weather conditions change.Ski in the winter, hike in the spring, bike in the summer – or find other seasonal activities you enjoy. If you walk or run on a treadmill, go outside and get a whole new workout.But give your body 2-4 weeks to adapt.Running on a treadmill, which absorbs more shock when you land, is vastly different from running on the ground.To avoid sore or strained muscles when switching gears, start off by doing half your usual workout, and increase reps and times from there.

Plateau breaker #3: Make routines playful. To avoid boredom when getting in shape, try workouts that make you react to other people or objects – like a competitive sport or exercise class. They stimulate more motor development than regular exercise.

Plateau breaker #4: Add random intervals. Interval training – alternating strenuous exercise with more moderate rest periods – has been shown to burn more fat, build more muscle and boost metabolism more than other types of exercise.You can get even better results with a method called fartlek training (fartlek is Swedish for “speed play”), in which you vary your walking, running or cycling routine at random. If you’re walking by yourself or with a partner, pick out an object like a mailbox and jog or run to it, then return to your regular pace. Repeat this by targeting various objects along your route. When biking or running, race up a hill or sprint to an intersection or stop sign. If you’re with a partner, take turns shouting out the next interval to maintain an element of surprise.Your body will have a hard time adjusting to the unpredictable activity, so you’ll gain endurance and power more quickly.

Plateau breaker #5: Learn a new skill.  Local colleges, activity clubs and sporting-goods stores frequently offer instruction on activities you may not have tried, like rock climbing and kayaking. These give you mental stimulation and new goals while getting fit. Plus, these group activities offer social interaction and an opportunity to be around other active people.By adding elements of adventure and discovery, you can make exercise about more than just getting in shape 

Plateau breaker #6: Slow down. It may sound counterproductive, but lowering the intensity of an exercise program can give you a jump-start when results start to slow. If you have an established routine, take a “taper week” – cut the distance or duration of your workout by half.When you return to your full workout, you’ll see results again.This works particularly well if you’ve been training too hard.The longer you’ve been working out, the more important the recovery time.

Plateau breaker #7: Set multiple goals. Create different objectives for each part of your fitness plan to avoid total routine burn-out. In other words, set separate goals for nutrition, diet, flexibility and strength. Flexibility goals could include stretching for 10 minutes after each workout.Strength goals might mean doing a certain number of push-ups or weight-lifting reps with a certain amount of weight. A dietary goal might be replacing junk food with five servings of fresh veggies or fruits a day. Even if your progress wanes in one area, your success in others will keep you from getting discouraged by the slowdown.But make sure your goals are attainable – or break up your ultimate dream into smaller, more reachable steps. For example, instead of saying, “I’ll run a marathon in six months,” focus on running a few blocks, then a mile, then five miles.

Plateau breaker #8: Adjust your thinking. An optimistic attitude toward fitness is just as important as the details of an exercise program.If you feel it’s too inconvenient, expensive or time-consuming, you won’t stick with it.Instead, focus on the positive aspects of getting fit – what you want and can reasonably expect to achieve: I want more energy or I want to look good for bathing-suit season.This aligns your attitude and behavior, making it less likely you’ll fall off the wagon.

Plateau breaker #9: Bribe yourself. Eventually, getting in shape will become its own reward – but until then, it may help to treat yourself in other ways.Motivate yourself with rewards – or have someone else reward you – for good behavior. You could buy yourself a new book when you lose 5 pounds, or go see a movie when you’ve worked out three times a week for two weeks.A new pair of shoes or workout outfit if you've worked out four to five times a week for straight month.Pretty soon – when you notice new strength and stamina, the pounds start disappearing and you begin to enjoy a more active lifestyle – you’ll have all the benefits you need.

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