Over 50 and hit a plateau? Here's what to do
You're consistent with your training, but losing your motivation because you've hit a plateau.
Sound familiar? If you are consistent it should, because it happens to us all. I've noticed over the last 20 years of training that as we get older the plateaus get longer. I've had a few people lately express frustration with their plateaus, but don’t give up - all will be well. It's by perseverance that your fitness will get to the next level of reward for you.
While we can't beat plateaus, and to be honest I can't promise that my advice will absolutely break your plateau, but it will help shorten its duration.
Let's briefly look at why we plateau. This most fundamental reason is that our body adapts very quickly to new exercise and new demands placed on our entire system. This means that after about 6 weeks the body starts to take it easy. It has learnt how to conserve energy and still meet your exercise demands so that you can survive longer in this new mode of operation. This means that further gains start to diminish and you eventually reach a plateau. This is called the "training effect".
.There are also some other reasons that might be holding you back:
Changes to make to your fitness routine
How do you beat the training effect?
There are two fundamental methods. The first is to shock the body with changed demands, and the second is to shock it with increased stress within your current program.
Let's take a look at the latter. Progressively increasing load means adding small but frequent changes in load. Progressive overload refers to small increases is stress. If we look at this in the context of your current exercise routine this means changing the order of your routine, changing the reps, sets and loads, going slower on the eccentric moves under load, holding the load under tension for one or two seconds instead of rushing, etc. It can also mean adding more conscious focused attention on the muscles which you are now stressing slightly more. Developing better body awareness is an important skill to help overcome plateaus.
The biggest opportunity to reduce the duration of your plateaus is to add completely new demands. While they may be new demands, they are all, of course, all connected with how your body works as a team. For plateaus in resistance training, add in challenging bodyweight exercises such as push-up variations, planks with added stability demands, and pull-ups with holds at the mid-point. Throw in battle ropes and time on the cable machines with high pulls for example. Even add in intense cardio such as a rowing machine routine - 1.5km in 6 minutes on max load - this helps build muscular energy efficiency.
If your plateau is related to endurance exercises then add in interval and circuit training to build stamina. Try adding solid kettlebell routines to add muscular strength and tone as well as all over stronger and better conditioned ligaments and tendons. Do a different kind of endurance training for a while - if you run and don’t mind cycling add in some tough spin classes. If you ride and don’t mind running head off for a 5km run a couple of times a week.
Preventing a plateau can be tricky, but listen carefully and your body will give you clues along the way. Be mindful that sleep, good nutrition, flexibility, and recovery days are just as important for progressing your fitness as the most challenging session you do in the gym or on the road this week. Good luck, and don’t give up. You WILL break through to the next level if you keep pushing.
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Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building body-shaping training for people our age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter