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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Planning for Plateau Busting


photo by rafael penaloza

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By constantly, evaluating and re-evaluating your progress, you can make changes necessary to continue making progress. Plateaus are an inevitable part of making long term progress. Whether your goals are weight loss, better fitness, more strength, or greater performance, as your body adapts to what you are throwing at it, you will need to make changes to continue making progress and break through those plateaus. This requires a few things before it can work.

1. You must have a specific goal

Without a goal, you are a ship without a rudder. No matter how much effort you put into moving forward, you'll never get to your destination if you are moving in circles. You must have a goal so that you can create a plan tailored to achieving that goal. Specific goals make you more accountable for your progress. Having a goal of losing 5% body fat is better than having a goal of just losing weight. The more specific the goal, the easier it is to measure.

2. Have a measurement criterion

Goals are useless without a method to measure progress. You must be able to measure something to show that you are moving either closer or further away from that goal. If you goal is to be more fit, how are you going to measure it? The measurement criterion is this case might be your time on a mile run. Your goals must be measurable!

3. Keep a log

In order to make corrections, you must keep a log of what you have done in the past. If you are not making the progress that you hoped for, you can't evaluate what you are doing unless you can look at what you've done. Everyone hates to do this, but it is essential.

4. Analyze your results

Are you making progress? If you are, what are you doing right? If you are not, what could you do better to get you there faster? Are you at a plateau because you've slacked off on your nutrition? Or has your body adapted to your plan and it's time to try something more advanced? This step is the most important for getting through those eventual plateaus. If you are not making progress, there is always a reason. Find the reason and change your approach.

5. Plan for continued progress

Ok, you've achieved your goal. Now what? Decide whether you want to continue making improvements by creating a new goal and repeating these steps. Don't forget that maintenance is also a valid goal. But maintenance doesn't mean stopping everything and becoming a couch potato. Maintenance requires that you continue measuring yourself to check that you don't backslide. This is a big problem for people whose goal is to lose a number of pounds by the time the family vacation rolls around. They achieve that goal, then stop everything and revert back to old unhealthy habits. Don't let that happen to you. Keep working toward staying at your new level of achievement.

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