I have a confession to make. Since last August I have not seen any change in my body even though I workout consistently. Generally I average about 4-5 workouts a week with a mix of cardio, pilates, and strength training.
Sounds like I should be slimming down and building muscle right? Or that maybe I am cheating and eating more than I should? If I was trying to lose weight, I would say that I am stuck at the dreaded weight loss plateau stage. The culprit is related to intensity, pain, and a little laziness on my part. Let me explain.
This post is a discussion about exercise intensity, weight loss plateaus, and how I am a wimp.
Why do we hit a weight loss plateau when we are doing everything right?
So over time, the human body will learn to adapt to any exercise routine we throw at it. Whether we are trying to lose weight or building muscle at the gym, after 3-4 months of doing the same thing over and over again, our bodies learn to use the least amount of energy for that activity.
This would be great if we are back in the cavemen days and we need our bodies to be energy efficient due to food scarcity. In the modern urban environment, the only food scarcity we might experience is wondering out loud at the cube farm who took the last donut and did not throw away the pink box in annoyance.
Workout intensity and plateau
Many people workout month after month, but make no real progress, just like I am not making any progress since last August. I am stuck in a workout rut. I have been doing the same workouts, but never really increasing the workout intensity.
To get out of any plateau, we need to shake things up a bit and bump up our workout intensity. As we increase our load and effort, the body starts to notice this increase and will respond by making itself better able to handle the energy expenditure.
For strength training, this would result to bigger and stronger muscles. For aerobic training, this would result to an increase in endurance. The body will morph to handle this increase intensity.
But after 3-4 months, the body once again becomes efficient enough to expend less calories for the activity and it is time to change our workout routines again.
How do we know that it is time to increase workout intensity?
I should seen this coming. When I am not even slightly sore between my strength workouts, it is time to increase the amount of weights I am using. Or to change my strength routine in order to fool my body into being less efficient at the activity that I am doing. Or to switch from dumbbells to tubing for a little while. But no, I was comfortable with doing the same thing week after week.
Training that do not really challenge our bodies means that we stay at the same shape. There are health benefits to moving versus just sitting, but who really wants to spend hours each week sweating (or in my case, I was barely glistening) and not see any results?
Why are we willing to put up with less than optimal results in our workouts?
Because strenuous workouts hurt. It might a good sore, but we are still feeling sore and stiff afterwards. Training requires commitment. It is much easier to do what I call “maintenance level” workouts where we only glisten instead of sweat.
For those of us who go to the gym year after year without seeing much change to our bodies, we are just going through the motion. The last time we had a good sweat fest was probably the first three months when we made the commitment to go to the gym regularly. Unless you made the commitment to change up your routine every 3-4 months that is.
Why is asithi such a big wimp if she knows that she needs to increase her workout intensity?
I became such a wimp since my car accident few years ago. Sometimes when I try something new, it hurts. It really hurts, not from just muscle soreness, but at the injured areas on my body.
When we get injured, our bodies first response to that injury (whether it is internal or external) is to surround the area with platelets and form a fibrous cap over the area, kind of like a blood clot when you cut yourself.
The problem is that when the injury is on our soft tissue muscles, our muscles are made to flex and move, but this fibrous cap is not. That is why people who have experienced soft tissue injuries usually end up re-injuring the same areas over and over again because that stiff fibrous cap tear when the muscles are moving or that it is rubbing against each other.
The only way to get rid of the fibrous cap at old injured areas are usually through deep tissue massage. Stretching also helps because we stretch the muscles surrounding the fibrous cap. So when we flex our muscles with a new workout routine, there will be less tension at the fibrous cap and less chances of it tearing or breaking apart.
Since I have a lot of soft tissue damaged from my car accident, sometimes I really hurt when I increase my workout intensity without first taking precautions. I have no real problems when I put myself through a regiment of stretching, deep tissue massage, and icing as I progressively increase my workout intensity.
But my problem is that it is easier to keep doing what I am doing. I am lazy. What I am doing is comfortable.
But I better start the stretching and the deep tissue massaging soon. With an increase in workout intensity, there is muscle gain and fat loss. And I really want muscle gain and fat loss before spring rolls around.
Until next time and thanks for stopping by Small Steps to Health.
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