When you begin a new workout program, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while, results are immediate and inspiring.
If only you could replicate your first-week results week after week after week.
Unfortunately, our bodies adapt quickly to the rigors of a hard workout and progress sometimes stalls. We reach the dreaded plateau.
But there are things you can do to stretch the life of your workout and continue to improve. Here are a few:
1. Don’t multi-task
How can you get the most out of your workout if you’re spending part of the time on the phone, reading a book or thinking about work?
Your workout time is precious. It’s the one part of the day that’s all about you. So, for that hour, turn off your cell phone, clear your head and get focused at the task at hand.
All of your problems (and phone calls) will be waiting for you when your workout is over, so why bring them into the gym with you?
2. Get a partner
For some, having a workout partner is the difference between a great workout and “going through the motions.” The ideal workout partner challenges you, recognizes your progress and makes exercising fun.
And by having a workout partner, you have a built-in “appointment to exercise.” That means you’ll be less likely to skip a workout because you know there’s somebody waiting for you at the gym.
But steer clear of people who don’t put their all into their workouts or who want to spend the bulk of their workout time talking. You want someone who will push you to greater success, not hold you back or pull you down.
3. Keep score
One of the best ways to continue improving is to start taking note of your progress. For example, keep a list of the exercises you do regularly, like squats and dumbbell presses. Note how much weight you can lift for 15 repetitions. Then the next time you do that workout, try to increase either the number of reps you do or the amount of weight your lift. Continue to increase one or the other with each workout until you no longer can. At that point, change the exercises.
You can use the same technique with cardiovascular exercise. If you like to run, take note of how long it takes you to run two or three miles. The next time you run, either run farther in the same amount of time or run the same distance in less time.
Sometimes competition (especially with yourself) is a good thing.
4. Take a break
Believe it or not, sometimes a lack of progress is the result of working too hard.
Overtraining is the fastest way to hit a plateau and pile up injuries. Our bodies grow stronger and more fit when we rest them after we workout. If we don’t give our bodies enough rest between workouts or we work the same muscle groups too close together, progress halts.
Taking a day off and mixing in occasional “lighter” workouts with intense ones are not signs of weakness; they are the smartest way to workout and the quickest way to reach you goals.