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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Overcoming Workout Plateaus

by Lynn Bode

Dodging the dreaded workout plateau is actually very easy. Variety is the key ingredient to continual fitness success. To avoid hitting a workout plateau, follow these recommendations.

Humans are habitual. They strive on routine and rituals. While it’s true that routine can provide a sense of ease and security, I think we’d all agree that the same old, same old can also turn to boredom. And when it comes to working out, routine can be downright toxic.

New exercisers often see quick fitness results such as weight loss and increased muscle strength while engaging in the same workout day after day. However, after several weeks following their fitness routines they often become frustrated as the gains begin to dwindle. Eventually dieters scales become frozen on the same number or weight lifters are stuck at the same weight size. They hit a plateau.

A plateau typically is the direct consequence of a fitness rut – when an exerciser performs the same workout over and over. The human body is very efficient and quickly adapts to work. Once the body practices the same activity repeatedly, it grows more proficient at performing those moves. So that means it requires less energy and therefore also burns less calories.

Instead of celebrating their body’s improved fitness capabilities, exercisers often abandon their workouts. And who can blame them? After all, they no longer are seeing the results they desire and become increasingly bored with their workouts. Plus, hitting a plateau not only can halt fitness gains, but it can even reverse previous successes. But, with just a few simple steps exercisers can easily break-through that brick wall and continue to reap all the rewards of regular physical activity.

Dodging the dreaded plateau is actually very easy. Variety is the key ingredient to continual fitness success. To avoid hitting a workout plateau, follow these recommendations.

To begin with, every workout routine should be changed about every 4-6 weeks. The modification doesn’t have to be dramatic. A totally new exercise is a possible option, but alteration of a current exercise can be just as effective.

A simple way to determine how to transform your current workout is using the F.I.T.T principle. F.I.T.T. stands for frequency, intensity, time and type. This strategy can be adopted for both cardio and resistance training.

Frequency – increase or decrease how often you workout

Intensity – increase or decrease the difficulty or level at which you workout.

Time – increase or decrease how long your workout sessions last.

Type – change the type of exercises you perform.

Frequency and Time are limited by an individual’s schedule as well as appropriate rest time to ensure maximum efficiency and safety. But Intensity and Type are really only limited by creativity and planning.

Cardio exercise intensity can easily be varied through speed, incline, distance, height, etc. And of course the types of exercises are practically endless, so exercisers should never have the excuse that they’ve exhausted their exercise options. Good cardio examples include: walking, jogging, swimming, biking, hiking, and more. In addition, combining several of these exercises into one workout session can be very effective. Try 10 minutes each of 3-4 unique exercises.

Strength training intensity can also easily be altered with changes in resistance size, number of reps, rest time, number of sets and more. Even simply switching the sequence of the exercises can prove effective. There are also numerous strength training exercise options. Unfortunately, most exercisers are unaware of the plethora of training techniques and equipment options. They often get stuck performing the same 10 exercises over and over. Yet, there are hundreds of unique options. Simply utilizing new types of training equipment every 4-6 weeks can result in big improvements because each type of equipment will work the muscle groups in a slightly different manner. Gear options include: free weights, body bars, selectorized machines, resistance bands, and fitness balls – just to name a few.

So, to reduce your chances of hitting a plateau remember the F.I.T.T. principle. And approximately every 4-6 weeks choose one element of the principle to change (or even all four components). Incorporating this strategy will enable you to progress further and attain even higher fitness levels. It’s just that easy!



About the Author
Lynn Bode, author and certified personal trainer, is passionate about helping people get fit and healthy. She offers her services online through her company, WorkoutsForYou.com. Workouts For You provides even the busiest of people affordable, personalized exercise programs for losing weight, toning-up, building muscles & increasing stamina (via the Internet). The programs can be done on their schedule and in the comfort of their own home (or gym or on-the-road). Visit http://www.workoutsforyou.com/ for a FREE sample workout.

Avoid Common Fitness Pitfalls

by Lynn Bode

While exercising isn’t complicated, it’s very easy to make mistakes. Often times the mistakes are made because of lack of proper technique training or simply due to rushing to get the workout completed. Regardless of the reason for the mistakes, they can lead to injuries or at the very least be counter-productive to your fitness goals.

Of course it’s important to know specifically what to do to be successful at meeting your health and fitness goals but it is also crucial to understand what not to do. So take note of the following common mistakes and how to avoid them. These tips will help ensure your workout time is effective and help prevent injuries.

Too Much, Too Soon

Many new exercisers try to lose weight or tone up too quickly, by exercising too frequently or trying exercise programs that are too difficult for their fitness level. Be sure to start with an exercise plan that takes your current fitness regimen (or lack of) into account.

Pie In The Sky Goals

Despite what many advertisers would like you to believe, it’s unrealistic to think you can lose 30 pounds in 30 days or that you can have Hollywood abs simply by doing 10 minutes of crunches a day. It’s good to set goals but be sure they aren’t too aggressive and realize it’s okay to periodically re-define them.

Ignoring Expert Advice

It’s always advisable to consult your physician before starting an exercise program. Working with a fitness professional is also a good idea so you can learn proper technique, the latest fitness information and learn how to avoid injuries.

Over-Exercising

If you start to feel overwhelmed, neglect important daily activities in order to workout or repeatedly get injured, then it might be due to exercising too frequently. Realize the importance of balance and that more is not always better. Consider reducing the frequency of your workouts or the intensity of some of them and periodically resting for a few days or a week.

Improper Breathing

Sure, breathing is an involuntary bodily function; something that most individuals tend to ignore. But, breathing correctly during fitness sessions is very important. Incorrect breathing can lead to lack of oxygen and even faintness. When working out ensure that you don’t breathe too shallowly and try to breathe through the nose and out the mouth.

Selecting The Wrong Size

Choosing the proper weight size when strength training is trickier then it sounds. Lifting weights that are too heavy for you can lead to improper form and ultimately to injuries. Use weights that are too light and the exercise session can be ineffective. If possible consult a fitness trainer to determine the correct amount of weight for your size, strength and goals. A trainer can also help you develop a plan for safely progressing forward on weight sizes.

Not Staying Hydrated

Drinking enough water on a daily basis is important. When you exercise you need to consume even more water. You should drink 16 ounces for every hour of exercise you complete. Plus you should try to consume 1-2 cups of water about 30 minutes before you begin working out.

Eating Too Little

No, that’s not a typo. Not eating enough can be as detrimental as eating too much. When the body is not fed consistently, it goes into a starvation mode. Five to six smaller meals evenly spaced throughout the day helps keep the metabolism running smoothly. Just be sure to control portion size.

Hanging Out Instead Of Working Out

Just showing up at the gym is not going to help you get more fit. Socializing while leaning on a weight machine won’t build muscles. It’s important to enjoy your exercise time but make sure that the focus remains on physical activity.

Fixating On The Scale

If you think the scale doesn’t lie, consider this. Many professional athletes would be considered obese based on their weight alone. Look at the bigger and more relevant picture. Monitor your body fat percentage, if possible. Otherwise track measurements. Also don’t underestimate the importance of improved physical and mental well-being.





About the author: Lynn Bode is a certified personal trainer specializing in Internet-based fitness programs. She founded Workouts For You, which provides affordable online exercise programs that are custom designed for each individual. Visit: http://www.workoutsforyou.com/ for a free sample workout and to sign-up for their monthly fitness newsletter.

Fitness professionals, visit: http://www.trainerforce.com/

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