Accompanying the healthier, leaner diet we looked at in the previous post on breaking weight loss plateaus, we’re going to take things one step further and get active! Yes, the diet is a major make-or-break factor in your journey, but working out even twenty minutes a day will without a doubt make you leaner, stronger, and healthier than ever. Chances are, if you are at this plateau, you already know how important exercise is. It has gotten you this far, and even if you’re not steadily seeing more results because the scale isn’t budging, your body weight is being maintained and that’s better than gaining the weight back. Go ahead and applaud yourself for coming this far, whether you’ve dropped 5 pounds, 20 pounds, or simply fat weight (even if you gained a little from muscle). Any progress is good progress and it takes a tremendous amount of effort to drop the weight in the first place. If you're not yet satisfied with your accomplishments, ask yourself if you are really giving 100% when exercising.
Even though routine can be comforting and predictable when we live busy lifestyles, it won’t crush weight loss plateaus. Doing the same repetitive, boring workout each day is enough to keep us healthy and generally fit, but if you have stubborn fat to lose, are wanting a chiseled, sculpted body, you’ve got to spice things up. There are ways to use the same piece of equipment to do this if you simply can’t let go of it. If you love the treadmill and never want to try anything different, there are many different ways you can use it. Interval training is great for weight loss. Anything that gets the heart pumping, sweat dripping, and makes you stink during a workout is usually effective. As gross as it sounds, it works. A good rule of thumb when working cardio is to never finish a workout without being too tired and too smelly to meet your significant other’s parents. I guarantee this is a perfect way to gauge the intensity of your workout! When you get comfortable with an exercise, do it daily, and stop feeling the burn, it’s time to increase the intensity. While we can’t spot target fat to lose (like belly, flappy bird wings under our arms, droopy butt fat, etc.) we can lose fat all around. Think about it-how much nicer would it be to be able to burn off fat all over the body, rather than just in one spot? Luckily, that’s how it works. Intense cardio and light resistance exercises do just that. Working together, they are a super team of fat-burning potential.
The problem with most workouts that don’t seem to be going anywhere is that they are overused, and the muscles they require become so accustomed to that particular movement that they soon become strong enough to repeat the movement each day and that’s why we don’t see the results we want. When these muscles get used to this exercise, they don’t see the need to work harder, and if they don’t work harder to constantly improve, they don’t become better. See the pattern? For the ultimate fat-burning sensation to begin, find a workout that will challenge you. Obviously, do not overwork your body past it’s breaking point, but give yourself an obstacle to overcome with each workout. If your typical training day is spent at the gym on the treadmill running 6.5 mph, try going outside and doing hill sprints for 15 minutes. Alternate each hill sprint (the length of running straight up a hill and back down) one time with walking for 1 minute or doing lunges/ squats. Even though you haven’t changed the principle of your workout, which is running, you’re changing how you run. Hill sprints give the extra challenge of adding more strength and exertion needed, as well as the whole being outside in the elements factor. This is just one example of many ways to increase the intensity of a boring, repetitive workout. Circuit training and plyometrics are excellent exercises to incorporate into your workouts if you’re stuck at a particular weight and trying to burn more fat and gain lean muscle.
Always remember that diet comes first, exercise comes second, and the results will follow. Set reasonable goals, challenge yourself, work a little harder and it will pay off. If you’ve been working out and eating healthier meals, but the scale still isn’t budging, go the extra mile (literally?) and amp up your workout with something new. Alternating muscle groups throughout the week to focus on will help to rest muscles and repair them for increasingly difficult work in the future, so circuit training may be the way to go, as well as focusing on switching cardio routines to be less routine-y and more spontaneous. Go hiking, swimming, chasing after your kids, biking or anything that will wear you out and surprise your muscles. Often we mistake our fatigue for failure and nothing could be further from the truth! Fatigue during workouts, not at a life-threatening level- is healthy and shows progress is being done. Keeping things fresh and interesting will make all the difference and the fat will melt off quickly!