You’ve made the decision to lose weight and get into shape. At first, the pounds fell off and the gains came rapidly. Then, all of a sudden, everything halted. Nothing works. In fact, it seems as though some weight is going back on! People in the fitness industry call this hitting a wall, or hitting a plateau. It is normal and everyone who sincerely works at a fitness goal arrives at it, sooner or later.
The Dreaded Plateau
Having a fundamental understanding of why a plateau exists and how to handle it can make the difference between achieving your goals successfully, and burning out and giving up, or even getting injured and having to stop completely. There are three significant factors that contribute the the plateau effect, and three significant ways anyone who applies them can emerge victorious.
Important Factors for Plateaus
The first factor that contributes to a plateau effect is the body’s innate ability to conserve its own energy and use the best fuels in the most efficient way. In other words, eating enough so that the body does not shut down its fat-burning mechanism can appear self-sabotaging, but it is not. Anyone can lose weight quickly by eating next to nothing, but the price is paid in deterioration of the immune system and fatigue- not to mention the body using muscles as energy instead of fat. That’s right: the body breaks down muscles and uses the components as energy and saves the fat due to survival. The way to convince the body to burn fat is by eating enough food, and eating frequently enough to meet metabolic needs.
Take your own body weight and multiply it by 100. This is the minimum number of calories you need just to support the body’s functions, such as brain function, digestive function, and other essentials. If this bare minimum is not met, the mind does not work right, and the body becomes sluggish and listless. Add to that number at least 600 calories, to support the body’s metabolism to do the work on the days you exercise. This number is roughly what one should consume per day, eating proportioned meals and spreading them out to 5-6 meals per day.
The second significant factor that contributes to the plateau effect is doing the same exercises at the same intensity day in and day out. The body adapts to exercise very quickly. Intensity can be increased by lengthening the workout, changing the exercises, or doing them more vigorously. These choices jump start the body’s adaptation mechanism, which includes burning more fat for energy- given that there is enough fuel to do the work!
The third factor that contributes to the plateau effect is the amount of rest one gets. This is not only rest at night in terms of sleep, but rest between workouts so that the body’s muscles and joints can grow back stronger and more resilient. Exercise is only part of the growth equation; in fact, it is the “tearing down” part. Rest is when the body repairs itself, grows stronger and more efficient. Too much training without rest and enough sleep removes this all-important factor, and gains stop- including weight loss.
Never Give Up and Have Fun!
So, eat more, rest more, and vary up the routines when hitting the wall. What will happen is that the metabolism becomes kick-started, the energy returns, and the weight comes off anew. Voila! You’ve reached a new level of understanding and fitness.
Have fun! That’s what it’s all about.
Fitness novices start out enthusiastic at the prospect of getting in shape or losing weight. They pay their gym memberships or pick up their free passes and group class schedules. Then, they look down at the schedule and wonder what they’ve gotten themselves into. Except for the word cardio, they don’t know what to expect in any of the classes. This article is designed to help new gym goers learn the language of fitness classes.
Spinning or Cycling
I’ll never forget the day I told someone I was taking a spinning class, and they asked me what kind of class that was. That person literally thought that it was a cardio class were we spun around in circles. Strange as that may sound, many people don’t know what to expect in a spinning or cycling class. It is, in fact, a cardio workout on a special stationary bike. Music plays as the instructor tells students to increase or decrease the bikes tensions. At times, students with be told to get out of their seat and pedal or do a series of jumps (alternating for sitting to standing). New students are encouraged to pedal at their own pace.
Circuit Training is one of the best all around workouts because participants don’t do the same moves over and over again. Instead, a number of stations are set up, some cardio and some strength training. Some gyms set up the stations where you have to do them in pair. In other classes, students work out at each station individually. Students spend a minute or two at each station before moving to the next. The purpose of these classes is to keep the heart rate up while performing cardio and strength training moves. These classes are great because they are total body workouts and regular attendees see fast results.
BOSU Balance Training
Imagine someone taking a regular Swiss exercise ball, cutting it in half and telling you to stand on it. That’s basically what a BOSU ball is. This ball is used in fitness classes for aerobics as well as strength training, flexibility and balance training. At first, using this ball can be intimidating, especially if you are clumsy. Exercisers have to employ serious concentration in order to complete this class, especially in cardio and balance training. Unlike a Swiss exercise ball, the BOSU won’t roll around. When the ball is turned upside down, it can be used to do pushups. It may take a little time, but a BOSU workout can improve a person’s strength and flexibility.
While most people go to the gym to take classes that strengthen the heart and muscles, others just want to be able to do complete everyday tasks. That’s the purpose of functional fitness classes. These classes are perfect introductions for people who are new to the gym because participants see improvement when they do what they usually do during the day. Functional fitness classes work the abs, lower back and hips. Exercisers perform a lot of stretching, twisting and bending moves to mimic the movements they make throughout the day. Taking these classes helps individuals learn the proper way to bend when picking up something off the ground or reaching for something in a high cabinet in order to prevent injury. Once a person sees improvement, they may decide to venture into other classes.
Body Pump is an intense version of circuit training. Participants use barbells of various pounds and different sets of hand weights. Many of the exercises are done on an exercise step, such as lunges and side squats. Beginners can start by using light weights and lower steps. These classes are designed to help individuals shape up fast and gain muscle. Instructors teaching this class are supposed to be specially certified in Body Pump. A good instructor will walk around the room to make sure beginners don’t need any help. The classes can go from 45 minutes to an hour. You are guaranteed to be a little sore after completing this workout, but the result usually outweigh any temporary pain.
These are just a few of the class names that may intimidate a person working out at the gym for the first time. By learning the language of fitness classes, though, some of the apprehension is lessened by knowing what to expect. Of course, these are not all of the names of exercise classes. Like learning anything new, it’s okay to ask someone at the gym what is entailed in particular group classes.
More people these days are choosing to set up exercise equipment at home rather than paying for a gym membership. Home exercise equipment can be set up in any unused space you have — many people use space in their basements.
Having such a setup has several advantages over a traditional gym membership: you save on gas, are able to work out any time, and you have the privacy to work out without feeling self-conscious.
Set Personal Goals and Find the Tools to Reach Them
When choosing what type of equipment you are going to buy, the first thing you need to look at is what your personal goals are. If you desire to lose a couple of pounds or just get in a little better shape, very minimal (or even no) equipment will cover your needs.
If you’re planning to get in better cardiovascular condition, there are treadmills, stationary bikes, rowing machines — basically hundreds of different machines that do the same thing. The major difference in these type of machines is what you prefer. Some people like to be seated, some like to stand, etc. At the top end of the issue, if you are planning to build muscle through resistance training, you are probably looking at the biggest, most complicated, and most expensive proposition. The good news is that new devices are constantly being developed that suit many different tastes.
It Depends on Your Situation
The big thing with gym equipment is you can go as big or as specialized as you want. I know a woman who has a full gymnastics gym in her house for her daughter. She simply did a search for the best equipment she could find including home balance beams, various bars, and other pieces of equipment that could help her daughter. Basically, find what will work for your personal situation (or your family’s!) and go from there.
Be Mindful of Setup Requirements
The second issue you need to look at is how complicated setup of your equipment is. A basic treadmill requires very little setup, but a Bowflex is much more complicated. The rule of thumb here is to select equipment you will actually use. We have all known people who had a stationary bike in the corner of their basement that served as nothing more than a coat rack. If you don’t have a whole lot of space to leave your equipment set up and workout ready, you want to be sure that equipment can be pulled out of the closet without a great struggle.
If setting the equipment up is more intense than the workout itself, you probably aren’t going to want to use the equipment much. This sort of caveat applies to something like the Total Gym endorsed by Chuck Norris. It is a really great and versatile piece of equipment, but I have heard many complain that it is a lot of trouble to drag out and set up every time they want a quick workout. This also applies to something like the Bowflex. While both of these machines are much, much better than anything that was available 25 years ago, your best bet would be using these machines in an area you can leave them set up. That way, whenever you need a workout, you just do it. You don’t need to budget time and effort to get everything ready.
Stay Within Your Budget
The last thing to look at when choosing your equipment is cost. If you just want to get into general shape, buying an aerobics DVD or very simple equipment like a jump-rope are very inexpensive. Again, the more versatile your equipment, the more expensive. When looking at top-end equipment like the Total Gym or Bowflex, many people even need to finance the equipment. One of the best alternatives to this is looking in your local papers. There will always be people who buy this sort of equipment and either don’t use it or upgrade very soon. These people are often willing to part with their equipment for very little money.
Regardless of your own starting point, choosing your exercise equipment is a pretty straightforward process:
Decide on your goals. Choose equipment that will let you accomplish those goals and that you will actually use. Finally, do your homework and find the equipment that suits your goal and your budget.