Let’s say you started out on your health journey a few months ago. You set the goal to lose a certain number of pounds and you’ve been exercising more, eating better, and making healthier choices for yourself. At first you were seeing great progress. You dropped in weight, lost some inches, and gained some strength. But lately, despite continuing with the same habits, you seem to have stalled out. The scale seems to be stuck, you’re not noticing changes as quickly as you did before, and your progress has slowed down. You’re putting in the work, but you’ve hit a plateau. So what do you do?
Rather than spiraling you into either a pit of disappointment that leaves you feeling like a failure, or a frenzied attempt to work yourself harder and exhaust yourself further, I first want to assure you that this is normal. Everyone experiences some kind of plateau at some point in their weight-loss or health journey. So let’s chat about some things you can do to try to push past it when you hit yours.
1. Adjust Your Expectations
When first starting on your health journey, it’s very common to see big changes in your body right out the gate - especially if you have a lot of weight to lose, or if you’ve made big adjustments to your lifestyle and habits. But rapid weight loss can only go so far, especially if you are trying to do it in a healthy way. At some point, your initial efforts will work themselves to a point where they slow down, or simply maintain, your results. You often won’t see the big losses in weight, or gains in strength, that you experienced early on. This doesn’t necessarily mean you are doing something wrong, it just means that if you want to keep seeing results, you’ll have to make some adjustments to keep supporting progress. Our health can be very elusive - there’s no one-size-fits-all method that ensures the same results for everybody. It’s a constant state of learning and relearning what our bodies need as they adapt throughout life. So take the pressure off of your body to always produce a certain output.
2. Redefine Your Measures Of Progress
It can affect us all a little differently, but oftentimes many of us let the scale have a louder say in our lives than it should. Just because a number isn’t changing does not mean your progress has stopped. Find victories in places other than the scale. Are your clothes fitting better? Are you sleeping better? Are your energy levels up? Are you able to more easily do an activity that used to be a challenge for you? Are you getting stronger? There are numerous ways to track progress that don’t involve a number, so why not break up with the hunk of plastic once and for all and celebrate all the other victories you might have overlooked.
3. Reassess Your Nutrition
Oftentimes when the calories we burn are equal to the calories we eat, the end result is a plateau. So, you can address one end of the equation or the other (or both). If you address the calories you are intaking, consider honestly what your nutrition habits are. I say ‘honestly,’ because it can be easy to deceive ourselves into thinking we’re nailing it when really we are still allowing ourselves to have one too many indulgences. I know I can be guilty of that. I’ll consider the fruit and veggie smoothie I had for breakfast, the lean protein snacks, the balanced lunch and dinner, but I’ll conveniently forget about the bowl of ice cream I attacked before bed. So be honest with yourself to see if there are any empty calories you are putting in your body that may be contributing to your plateau.
For some people, it can also be beneficial to track your food for a short period to get a better understanding of what you are eating. Whether you log your food on a piece of paper to hold you accountable or you use an app to track your calories, you may be able to notice if there is anything you can change or eliminate.
I know nutrition can be a guessing game for many, so if there is any question in your mind about what is the right move for you to make, I would love to chat with you. We can review your nutrition and I can provide feedback and guidance, and help you form a plan moving forward. Simply send me an email at email@example.com to reach out!
4. Challenge Yourself More In Workouts
The other end of that equation mentioned before is to consider the calories you burn. This is where exercise and movement come in. Perhaps the level of exercise you’ve been putting forth is no longer getting the job done. You can address this two ways:
One is to consider if it’s time to add in another workout. At Worth the Work Fitness, we aim for four 30-minute HIIT workouts every week. Are you getting all four in? If not, make it your goal to add in another day of exercise. If you are, you can consider either adding in a bonus workout, or start supplementing your workouts with some long walks or lighter activity between your workouts throughout the week.
The other option is to consider your level of intensity of workouts. Maybe you can start pushing yourself to exert more effort into some movements you’ve been getting used to. Maybe it’s time to challenge yourself to level up from a modification that has been helpful for you. Strength often comes from challenging ourselves, so be sure that you are giving it your all and trying hard things when it feels right.
5. Alleviate Stress
Stress not only affects us mentally, it also impacts us physically. It can promote comfort eating or drinking. It can trigger cravings for foods that aren’t going to make you feel the best. And perhaps most significantly to your plateau, it releases cortisol in the body, which holds on to belly fat. Producing too much cortisol can make weight loss extremely difficult. To help alleviate your stress, try activities like working out, going on a walk, reading, listening to a podcast, or meditating - whatever brings you joy. For more information on how stress affects the body, and how to better manage it, check out our post on Exercise and Stress Management here.
6. Consider Your Alcohol Intake
While many of us enjoy our adult beverages, alcohol can be a big culprit in causing a weight loss plateau. Real talk: alcohol can trigger cravings and is basically empty calories that bring no nutritional value to the table. Alcohol has even been shown in many studies to suppress fat burning. So to get through a plateau, take a look at how often you are drinking and either cut it out completely for a time, or limit it to special occasions in small amounts.
7. Reshape Your Mindset
Here’s some real truth for you: you do not always have to be losing weight or gaining strength. Stop for just a moment and take the scale out of the equation. Are you happy with how you feel, how you’re eating, or how you’re sleeping? If so, let yourself be content with that! That’s ultimately what matters more anyways. If you want to keep feeling good, keep up the habits you’ve been doing that make you feel that way, and celebrate the feel good instead of the weight loss.
8. Whatever You Do, Don’t Give Up!
The biggest issue with people feeling like they’ve hit a plateau is that they don’t feel like there is room for more growth, so they stop putting in the work for their health. But, what happens when you stop? Your progress is going to start going the other way, and you may find yourself back where you were when you first began. So remind yourself of your ‘why’ and keep showing up. You may have to adjust your methods, but the work is still worth it. YOU are still worth it.
I hope these tips were helpful. We’ve all been there when it comes to discouragement with our progress. Whether we’re not losing weight like we want to, or we’re not gaining the strength we desire, we all have goals, and we all experience stagnance at some point or another on the journeys towards them.
But when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
So let’s get going!
With so many options of workout formats out there in the world, and even more opinions on which ones are the best, it might be overwhelming to know which one(s) really are the best for YOU. While we encourage people to move their bodies in ways they enjoy and that make them feel good to increase the odds of sustainability, we have a fondness for one particular workout format that we base the majority of our workouts around. That workout format is High-Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT for short). While HIIT has become increasingly popular (it’s ranked among the top 5 fitness trends since 2014), there are still many people that are unfamiliar with what it is and how it benefits the body, so we thought we’d take the time to break that down today and explain a little more why we focus so much on these types of workouts for our clients at Worth the Work Fitness.
WHAT IS HIIT?
High-Intensity Interval Training is a format of exercise that involves alternating short bursts of higher-intensity work with short periods of rest, or less-intense active rest. Here’s a simple example of how HIIT works: When running, you sprint at an “all-out” pace for 1 minute, and then do a slower, more relaxed paced jog for 30 seconds to a minute. Then you repeat that cycle 4-6 times. It can be as simple as that. But there are a variety of approaches to HIIT workouts and how you can incorporate them into different types of training, especially beyond running. Here at Worth the Work Fitness, we like to mix both aerobic and resistance based exercises to not only get your heart rate up, but also build muscle. Plus, we like to incorporate exercises that work multiple parts of the body at once, so you get to use more muscles and benefit further from the work you are putting in.
WHY WE LIKE HIIT
Probably the most beloved part of HIIT is it’s time efficiency. With this type of workout you can get the most bang for your buck, because you can experience the same (or better) health benefits as other forms of exercise in a shorter amount of time. While there is no set amount of time that a HIIT workout must last, you can typically get significant health benefits from 10-30 minutes of work. That sounds like a much more reasonable time frame to fit into your busy life, doesn’t it?
Another commonly favored aspect of HIIT is what is often referred to as the Afterburn Effect. Basically it means that because of the higher intensity nature of the workouts, your body’s metabolism is elevated and is therefore able to stay in a fat-burning state long after your workout is over.
And we can’t go on without mentioning that you are much less likely to get bored when participating in HIIT workouts because of the way they stimulate your brain to be more engaged in the process. Plus, it helps the already short workout time seem to pass by faster. And we all know that the more we enjoy something, the more likely we are to keep doing it.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF HIIT
So we’ve mentioned that HIIT can lead to the same, if not better, health benefits as other forms of exercise in a shorter amount of time, but what specific health benefits are we talking about? There is a great deal of evidence based research on the benefits of HIIT, and this article outlines some of them in more in detail, but here is a quick run through a few of the big ones:
Not a bad list of things to benefit from, am I right?
Just like any more intense exercise regimen, there are always some levels of risk of injury, so it’s important to recognize what some of those risks are. And it’s equally important to know how to mitigate those risks.
First and foremost, if you have any concern about whether or not HIIT is an appropriate method of exercise for you, the most important place to start is talking to your doctor before engaging in it. This is especially relevant if you have any pre-existing health concerns (especially heart related) or previous injuries. While there are many health benefits in this form of exercise, you want to be sure that it’s an appropriate place for you to start.
To ensure that your body is prepared for a more intense activity, it is always best to take the time to warm up and wake up your body first. We always start off our workouts with a warm up of exercises to raise the heart rate and get your muscles ready for more work.
A key factor in fitness that many people overlook is that it is more important to do an exercise properly than it is to do it quickly. We take a few measures to increase the chances that you are doing things right, even from home. First off, Brett (the founder and trainer at WTWF) is an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer with years of experience in the fitness industry under his belt to guide you. In every workout he demonstrates each exercise and talks through what proper form should look and feel like, as well as cues you throughout the workout to help you stay focused on it, even when you are growing tired. We also provide instruction and demonstration of exercise modifications to accommodate for different skill and comfort levels. And lastly, as a benefit of being a WTWF member, you can have access to your personal accountability coach that you can talk with if you have concerns about any specific exercises.
While it may be tempting to maximize the highly effective nature of these workouts by doing them more often, it is because of that effective nature that we don’t have to workout as often. Because of the higher intensity, it is all the more important to allow our bodies time to rest and recover. In fact, doing so is an important part of the effectiveness of HIIT. That’s why our workout calendar only includes 4 workouts a week. So be sure to include rest days and lower intensity exercises throughout the week as well.
I hope this helps give you a better idea of not only what kind of workouts we focus on here at Worth the Work Fitness, but also WHY we love them and do them. We wouldn’t offer you access to something if we didn’t believe in what we’re putting out there.
So if we’ve convinced you to give this workout format a try, we’d love for you to experience these benefits firsthand with a FREE WEEK of our Worth the Work Fitness workouts - no strings attached. Just click here to enter your information and get started!
Written by Kelly Pruim
We are nearing the end of our Core Value Series where we’re diving a bit deeper into each core value of Worth the Work Fitness in order to help you get to know us better, and to help encourage you towards a healthier mindset with your health and wellness journey. Each week we are sharing one of our nine core values that are a part of the foundation of why we do what we do, and expanding on why each one is so significant to us and why we believe each can be significant to you as well.
We embrace that hard work is part of the process, because we know the results are worth the work. There will be challenges & plateaus - that’s just part of the journey. But rather than viewing them as setbacks or reasons to quit, we view them as opportunities to become stronger, both mentally & physically.
Let’s face it; our culture has become a bit obsessed with instant gratification. We want what we want, and we want it now. We want the outcomes and results, but we’re not always patient enough to wait for them to show up. Worse yet, we’re not always willing to put in the effort it takes to make them happen. And if things get tough along the way, well it’s time to abandon ship.
But aren’t the best things in life worth the struggle and grind it takes to get them? Aren’t they worth digging in our heels when things get tough? Aren’t they worth the effort it takes to muster up motivation when all feels lost? Well that’s a sentiment that the fitness industry typically likes to gloss over, because a quick fix sounds much sexier than hard work and a long-term change.
Can I let you in on a secret? When I first started working in the fitness industry, I was taught that in order to sell well, I needed to skip over talking about the work, because work sounds hard, and no one likes doing hard things. It’s far more appealing to highlight and focus on the results without emphasizing what it would take to get them. I always hated the idea of skipping over the work, because to me, it was leaving out the most important part of the process. You just can’t get results without putting in the work. So when I started my own business, I vowed to myself that I would do things differently.
I want to be upfront about the work it takes to live a healthy life. I want to be upfront about the sweat, the grind, the effort, the challenges, and the plateaus. Because I would rather prepare you for what’s ahead and help you through it, rather than pretend it’s not there and set you up for failure. I would rather equip you with the skills and knowledge to succeed than feed into the mirage that the results you seek are easily attainable.
I get it though. It’s probably not your favorite thing to hear that the results don’t come without the work, but deep down you know it’s true. You’re going to have to sweat. You’re going to have to push yourself through workouts that challenge you. You’re probably going have to make some adjustments to the way you eat. You’re going to have to work. But since you will put in the work, you will most certainly get more out of it, because it’s always more rewarding when you work hard and achieve something, rather than it be handed to you. For example, running a marathon is far more rewarding than simply sitting on a bus for 26.1 miles. Is it much harder work to do so? Of course! But the feeling of accomplishment is significantly higher.
Our aim as a company is to show you how to put in the kind of work that feels worth it in the end (the kind that you can feel proud of), and to come alongside you as you do it. That’s why we’re called Worth the Work Fitness. Instead of glossing over the tough stuff, we embrace the work because we know it leads to results that are worth it in the end.
So don’t let the work deter you.
Don’t let it stop you.
Don’t let it discourage you.
Lean into it.
And embrace it.
Because the best things in life are worth the work.
P.S. Join us next week for the final installment of our Core Value Series where we’ll be talking even more about the kind of results that are worth it.
Written by Brett Henderson and Kelly Pruim