It is bound to happen to you at some point in time. You have been working out hard, watching your weight poundage go steadily up; then one day it just stops. “No big deal you say,” and chalk it up to being tired. But then a week goes by and nothing changes. By the end of the second week you are starting to get worried.
Congratulations, you have just hit a rut.
There is no shame in running aground in a training rut. In fact, it should be viewed like a badge of honor. You usually have to train pretty hard for quite a while to reach a plateau like that. But now that you are here what do you do?
Step 1 – Take a break. Whenever you hit a training plateau that lasts for a few weeks the first concern should always be overtraining. To combat this dreaded syndrome of the fitness world you just take some time off; preferably a full week to really let your body and mind recuperate. Get plenty of good sleep.
Step 2 – Reassess your diet. While you are on a 1 week break is the perfect time to review your eating habits. Count some calories; check your percentages for protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Consider your vitamin and supplement intake. If you aren’t getting the proper nutrition then how can you expect your body to grow? If there is a problem then rectify it!
Step 3 – Start training again but on a limited cycle. Most professional athletes learn that you need to cycle your training. Your body can’t go all out all the time and expect to gain. So what many athletes do is cycle training to build up to a new higher level then back off training before ramping up again. To do this, reduce your training weight by about 20%. Increase your reps for a few per set. Also try and eliminate at least one exercise per workout and perhaps even cut back a few sets. You are still training, but at a lower intensity than before.
Step 4 – From this lowered training point slowly increase the weights and decrease the repetitions. Don’t add back in any missing sets or exercises. This gives you a chance to assess if you were overtraining before with too much work.
Step 5 – Chart your new goal for poundage. Determine what increments you should use from where you are now to get to your new goal. Then simply increase your poundage each workout until you get there. Don’t ever consider that you aren’t going to get there. Just focus on getting there.
Step 6 – After you reach your new goal for poundage, maintain it for a few workouts and then follow this program again. By cycling your workout and intensity you should be able to keep increasing your poundage in a very steady manner as well as ensuring you aren’t falling victim to overtraining.
Ruts happen to all of us. But instead of getting frustrated and trying to power through it, the best method is to slow down and back off a bit. Then it is just a matter of plotting a course for success and pushing yourself to get there. But once you reach the top of the mountain make sure to reward your body by giving it some more rest. That way it will be fresh for climbing up the next hill.