Just Because It's Taking Time
(Doesn't Mean It's Not Happening)
Most people, when they start their fitness journey, have a lot of initial success! They see several pounds melt away (usually due to a quick loss of water weight), and start to feel more energetic and are excited to start lifting. Life is good!
At some point, inevitably, we all meet the dreaded plateau. Things seem to stagnate for a while. Weight loss slows or halts, movement patterns settle in, and the picture of what they think they should be achieving starts to differ from reality. How each person handles this moment is extremely important. Not to sound too dramatic, but it very well may have an impact on the rest of your life.
Here is the most important truth of “plateaus”:
Just because it is taking time doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
Think of it this way, your body has spent the last however-many years getting to where it is now. It may take some time to turn that ship around.
Most people believe they are on a plateau because of an image of perfection they have conjured up in their minds. If they are not there, or getting there as quick as they want, it's a plateau. They have a specific achievement goal, and their whole focus is on getting to that point. As we have talked about, achievement goals are not bad things in principle, but they must be tempered with behavioral goals. When they become the main focus, achievement goals often translate to a fixed mindset. Behavioral goals, conversely, foster a growth mindset.
If you have an achievement goal for your fitness, you should ask yourself a few questions:
Do you spend the rest of your life right in that spot? That sounds kind of boring.
Or do you decline? Also not a great option.
This is why you see so many young Olympic athletes completely fall apart when they stop competing at that level. Their goal was 100% to get to and win the Olympics. When that was over, they had nothing else. That should give you a bit of pause.
If you live for a pinnacle, you have to know that it is pretty small up there, and falling off is a pretty big hazard.
If we're honest, most of us are not willing to live the kind of life a pinnacle requires. It is demanding and all-encompassing.
Sometimes, what others call a plateau is actually a pretty good place. You are performing well, you look and feel good, and your body is pretty happy in that place.
That is not a bad thing.
You might find that you are willing to do what it takes to live on that plateau, even if you don’t want to chase the pinnacle.
Now, if you are not satisfied with the strata on which you find yourself, then we need to focus on a few things.
I reiterate: just because it is taking time does not mean that it's not happening.
You may be laying a foundation of form and activation that your body needs to continue to the next level.
You may need to continue adjusting your habits to foster continued progress.
Maybe the challenge level needs to be increased.
In any case, focus on doing a little more, a little better.
If you can’t lift heavier, can you lift better?
Can you do more reps?
Can you decrease the rest?
Can you activate a little better?
If you’re focusing on nutrition, can you eat more protein?
Can you swap one carb out for a rainbow veggie or fruit?
Can you get to sleep a little earlier?
Can you reduce stress more?
Identify those areas where you can do a little more, a little better.
Sir Dave Brailsford calls it the “theory of marginal gains.”
If you get one percent better in 5 areas, that is 5% better overall, and that can make a big difference.
What if you could do 1% better in 10 areas?
Over time, these small gains make a huge difference.
Don’t discount seasons of marginal gains. Don’t get discouraged when things take some time. If the journey is about health and fitness, you have the rest of your life to get there. Enjoy the journey.