“I’m still working out but I’m not seeing the same results anymore”.
Sound like you? Yeah, it happens. In the beginning everything was so new and fresh our bodies could barely keep up with the stimulus and results were happening rapidly. Then, a couple of month later those once easy to shed pounds weren’t so easy anymore. By month 5 its as though everything has halted. This is called the law of accommodation and it’s your body telling you that somethings gotta change. Lets take running for example: Lets say you’ve never ran a day in your life and this year you’ve resolved to do just that by running one mile everyday. sounds like an admirable goal. The first time out is like hell – you’re a refaced, mouth breathing knuckle dragger flaring around like a fish out of water. Not to mention the omnipresent soreness you’re experiencing for days from the waste down. By week two you’re still a little breathy but the soreness has subsided and you’re actually able to run the whole mile without rest. By week three you’re a pro. Spine is erect, heart rate is only slightly elevated and breath so steady you almost catch yourself yawning half way through. You won… kinda.
On a physical level this simply means that you’ve adapted to the demands you’re exposing yourself to and your body has therefor done its job by acclimating to its new environment. Congrats! However, After a couple shorts months of this you find that the scale stopped moving and in fact you’re gaining again! This can be very frustrating because just getting ourselves motivated to move in the first place was a struggle and now we have to rethink our approach all over again? Really, what this mean is that we need to be one step ahead of our evolutions brilliant capacity to adapt to physical stress and mix up the way in which we experience that physical stress by continually creating varied states of muscle confusion to keep our bodies guessing. Using our running analogy, say you starting incorporating sprints at certain intervals. Jog a block, sprint a block? Now we’re talkin! Back to refaced-mouth breathing all over again. Let the results pour in baby! Now lets say you sprint a block then drop down and do 20 pushups and immediately sprint another block and repeat this for a mile. Now you’re recruiting different muscle groups through different energy pathways hence muscle confusion and your body will in turn create an adequate adaptational response. See my point? Change it up.
This is the beauty and the curse of exercise. On the one hand we want to get to the point where running a mile is cake. On the other hand it carves out a deeper trench of physical potential that can only be filled by more volume and/or work capacity. Simply running a mile isn’t good enough anymore even though just a few short months ago it was more than enough.
This effort-equals-results relationship is relative and holds true for everyone at every stage of the strength and conditioning spectrum. Thats why you hear about olympic level athletes who train 8 hours a day in order to stay competitive. Partly it’s to refine and master the most nuanced of movements but it is also in large part because they’re so conditioned that it takes 10 times the volume to reap just a 1% increase in ability for someone at that level.
Now, I know we’re not all olympic athletes but we can extrapolate and scale this back to our life and our personal fitness goals. It is usually at this point of accommodation that people fall off the wagon so to speak. Throwing their hands in the air convinced that they’re cursed and will never get the results they want. Do not fret. Instead of throwing in the towel this is where you must dig deeper. Recommit and test your resolve. Meet the challenge head on and embrace the reality that no one ever accomplished anything great by repeating the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. So simple. So true. The car that got you to the rendezvous point may not be adequate to get you up the mountain. For this you need to recognize the limitations of your current mode of transportation and change vehicles.
So what now? What can one do to keep an edge and continue seeing quantifiable results? The short answer is change your routine about every 6 weeks. Does that mean stop lifting weights and go do yoga or Pilates instead? Not necessarily. More like change the way you lift weights or run. If you’ve been back squatting the same ol weight for the ol reps on the same ol days then it doesn’t take a fitness mastermind to spot a problem in your programming. One workout do 5 sets of 5 reps, the next do 10 sets of one really heavy rep, the next do 8 sets of 3 reps… You can use that same approach for any muscle group. Catch my drift? Always keep your body guessing. We’ve evolved as a specific because of our ability to adapt and conserve so as soon as we’ve released the minimum effected amount of energy (body fat) necessary to adapt to the newly heightened level of exertion we resort back to conservation mode as a survival mechanism. From an evolutionary standpoint it is inefficient for us to operate at a high metabolic rate unless we are continuing to physically adapt to increasingly greater levels of strength, speed, endurance, agility, power, flexibility etc…
To keep your metabolism going strong and your progress moving forward remember these 3 words: Variation, intensity, consistency. StrengthRx… Ok 4 words.
If you find yourself feeling comfortable in the gym then you know something is wrong.
Now go sprint or something.