The literal definition of this word is “an area of relatively level high ground”. Just as we see these in nature, we can experience them in life. A plateau is caused by an ability to adapt; in nature being land adapting to a pressure of water over time. In life we can experience a plateau in many ways. As we grow, we adapt to whatever pressures we may frequently experience and become able to respond. However, once we stop experiencing NEW challenges or facing changes in our daily routine, we can reach this dreaded plateau. We stop growing, stop progressing, stop moving forward. We become kind of stagnant. Recently, I experienced this in a drastic way.
I am planning many big life changes set to happen within the next year and while those are extremely exciting, it has led me to feel kind of non-content and stuck in my current routine. Being 24 and having failed at my first life endeavor post-college, I look at myself – paying back loans aggressively, pursuing my future in the counseling world, in a real mature promising relationship – and think I am in pretty good shape life wise. I am proud of myself for being the person I am and being in the position I am in at this point in my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way. So why did I experience such a sucker punch to my stomach kind of self-doubting frustration station plateau? Because I have an insatiable hunger for bettering myself.
I know most people would say that isn’t a bad thing and I don’t think it is either. I am constantly reading, researching, looking for ways to feed that hunger. For me that outlet, that thing that keeps me constantly hungry yet always satisfied, is my fitness journey. My crossfit progress. My self. My body. My health.
Remember that definition of plateau? A level ground caused by an ability to adapt. Yeah. Well a year and a half into Crossfit I freakin adapted all right and I was stuck. Or at least it felt that way. Stuck in this spot that I had adapted so darn well to I felt like I couldn’t get out of. I spent a good month or two being entirely frustrated. Trying to find any little thing to make me feel better or show myself there is still some progress or I should still be proud of where I was. But all I could was so many people around me getting better and doing more and growing and there I was just hanging in there being the same old Kaitlyn I had been for the past few months. November was a difficult month for me and December did not start out much better. For a couple weeks I just had no motivation. It took everything I had to get to Crossfit each day. I was frustrated. I didn’t understand the point in pushing myself so hard if I wasn’t going to get any better or see the improvement I wanted so badly. One the Friday before Christmas week I remember going off via text message to my boyfriend. I was done with myself. Frustrated. Pissed. I wouldn’t be able to get to Crossfit that night and it just ate at me. I remember just ripping myself to shreds talking to him. Saying it didn’t matter what I did I wasn’t going to get any better. I’m not an athlete anyways. I never have been so who cares. I just can’t get to the fitness level some people can. My body isn’t made that way… Every excuse in the book… And “AFTER A YEAR AND A HALF WHY CAN’T I DO FUCKING PULLUPS!”
My boyfriend of course tried to comfort me and I calmed down after a bit and went to Crossfit Monday morning as usual. I had a great morning and a good workout. I felt okay about it. Then my coach asked me if I was signed up for the competition a bunch of people were doing. Of course I freaked and needed more information. It was a women’s competition in mid-January. One with workouts that I could actually do and feel confident in. I was immediately PUMPED. The conversation from just under three days ago flew out of my head and I was like yes I haaaave to do this! After I signed up I couldn’t stop smiling all day. I knew this had to be exactly what I needed to get back the motivation I had somehow lost recently. I thanked God and the universe for sending me this at the absolute perfect moment. I honestly don’t know if I would’ve have been quite as excited if this opportunity presented itself at any other time. This was my chance to prove something to myself.
Fast forward to Wednesday and some post-wod competition practice. I decided, after wearing my shoulders out to death, that I would use the empty box as a moment to try something which I was deathly afraid of continually embarrassing myself with. I attempted a kipping pullup. And holy mother of pearl! I freakin did it! (If you saw the video I posted you know how shocked of a reaction I really did have haha). Not even 5 days after yell-texting about hating myself for not being able to do pullups I did my first pullup! I mean talk about timing haha. The just two days after that I did real unassisted kipping pullups in an actual workout for the very first time.
Now why am I telling you this story?
Plateaus are something that we all are probably familiar with; whether they come in your weight loss efforts, in your gains, or whatever else. Reaching that plateau is easy. Pushing through it, not so much. However, as difficult as it is sometimes (both physically and mentally) it certainly is never impossible and just takes so honesty and hard work. In each step of pushing through make sure you pinpoint the physical and mental things that may be holding you back. A plateau is just as much a mental state as it is physical. You need to get your mind right first and believe in yourself to make these changes. And then go kick some plateau butt! 😀
First, determine whether you are really at a plateau.
This is especially important as related to weight loss. When we begin working out in different forms, our weight changes and sometimes that change isn’t what we expect. Before getting fed up with the scales refusal to decrease or constant up and down look at things that may be contributing. Are you losing fat but gaining muscle? Are you constantly sore from your workouts and not hydrating properly? Are you weighing yourself at different times of the day? All of these things could affect the number you see from day to day or week to week. Make sure you are accounting for all variable factors before you start giving yourself the beat down.
Second, have concrete, measurable, and realistically attainable goals.
Far too often we look all the way down the road to what we ultimately want to be. What “success” would mean. However, this can be damning in the sense that when it takes a while for us to get to that point it can cause unbelievable frustration. Like my damn pullups haha. Pullups are all I have wanted since starting Crossfit. Rather than commending myself for being the girl who could not even do one single knee pushup or one ring row, I was condemning myself for not progressing at what for me would be super speed. Set small achievable goals that will keep on the path to your ultimate goal. Goals that you can achieve more frequently to keep you aware of your progress and your little successes and results.
Third, focus on one goal at a time.
It is natural to have a lot of things that we want to improve upon. When we put effort to a multitude of things at one time we are more likely to find ourselves falling short in all areas and again becoming frustrated with ourselves. If you focus on the primary goal and put all your efforts into conquering that it is more likely that you will find success, have something to praise yourself for and feel good about, and then move onto the next goal with a bode of confidence. One prime example for me was learning to conquer double unders. After last years open, I spent most of the summer in my driveway as often as possible trying to get them down. Now they are easier and easier each time I do them and I am able to focus my energy elsewhere. (For instance on those pullups! Are you sensing a theme? heehee)
Finally, switch it up!
As I mentioned previously, staying in the same routine for a prolonged period of time is not only boring and stagnant but a straight path to hitting a plateau. I mean doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity right? Many times we find ourselves hitting a plateau, specifically in muscle gain and strength, when we never change up our routine. Being that my exercise regime is programmed by my Crossfit coaches and “constantly varied” is something Crossfit prides itself on, this is something that I can easily manage with their help. If you have a normal gym routine you do, whether it be weightlifting or cardio or both, switch up the movements you do and the machines you use every few weeks. Your muscles need an element of surprise and change and challenge. Something they have to continuously adapt to in order to keep progressing. Same thing with weight loss. If you are doing the same things you’ve did to lose the first 20 lbs but it doesn’t seem to be helping with that last 10 its because your body has plateaued and it needs a new challenge! Stay thirsty my friends … thirsty for fitness 😉