Being that this is my first ever blog post on the topic of fitness, I figured this topic would be a great place to start. This is particularly applicable for those of you who have hit pleteaus when training.
What are plateaus, you ask?
Plateaus occur when you can't train any harder, lose any more weight, or take another step towards your fitness goals. This is one of the most frustrating aspects of an individual's fitness life; you go to the gym 3-5 times a week, yet you keep trying to get that extra rep, keep trying to run that extra mile, but your body just won't allow it to happen. What gives?
Often times, we inhibit our performance unknowingly. Whether we don't eat well, sleep adequately or exercise at full intensity every time, there's always something we can do to tweak our fitness routine and push past that plateau.
The three keys to optimal health are...
1) Get enough sleep. We have more excuses than ever before to stay up late and not get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Whether it's late night television, Facebook creeping or playing addicting games like Candy Crush on our smartphones, people these days are plugged in 24/7. It's important, however, that we make sleep a priority each and every night. While some studies show that there are some individuals who can operate optimally on fewer than 7-8 hours, it's not a good idea to tempt fate and see if you fall into this minority. If you're stuck at a plateau, make sure you aim to get an adequate amount of sleep each and every night, and see if that helps take you past that threshold.
2) Eat the right foods. With fast food places galore in practically every town and city in this country, it's damn near impossible to resist it. From burger chains to pizza places to Chinese takeout, we are surrounded by tempting food options that are just plain BAD for you. Greg Glassman (CEO and Founder of CrossFit) encourages CrossFitters to follow The Zone Diet, which advocates the eating of 'meats, veggies, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.' Barry Sears, founder of The Zone Diet, has repeatedly stated in public appearances (and in his book) that if the foods you're eating aren't located at the edges of the grocery store and/or you can find a nutritional label on them, then these items aren't real food, and thus should not be put into your body. I'm not saying to quit eating junk cold turkey, but the better you eat, the more likely it is that you reach optimal health and performance and race past that plateau.
3) Exercise utilizing 'constantly varied functional movements executed at high intensity' during every workout. Whether you're looking to lose weight, bulk up or just improve your overall fitness, it's important that you push yourself each and every work out. But you have to go beyond that: if you're not challenging your core and practicing functional movements during every workout, you're going to hit a plateau. Sure, isolation movements and single body part exercises can be good in building size and strength, but what's more important: being able to lift a car and have 24 inch arms, or being able to use your body optimally and pull yourself up. There are few people on this earth who have both, and God bless them. But be realistic and think of what's most important. The above CrossFit principle is crucial in avoiding plateaus in your training.
What are functional movements, you ask? They are natural and universal motor recruitment patterns found in nature. These are safe, compound yet irreducible movements that everybody practices on a daily basis. A perfect example of a functional movement is the squat; done correctly, this movement isn't only safe, but good for you. The only time you're going to injure yourself doing squats is if you do so with improper form. We'll get into form in a later blog post.
In summary, if you've hit a plateau, try tweaking at least one of the three key elements listed above in your life. The results you'll see and the satisfaction you'll get by doing so will be well worth it.