Fitness reality check: How to avoid the exercise plateau

Welcome "Wellness Wednesday" poster Lindsay Vastola. She is the founder and president of Body Project Fitness & Health providing customized fitness training and “everyday eating” coaching. Her mission is to help men and women who “have no time for fitness” incorporate a healthy lifestyle amidst a busy schedule. Lindsay is an International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) certified personal fitness trainer and has more than ten years experience in fitness, weight training, and sports conditioning. Visit Body Project at

If you have ever exercised or followed a diet with the same routine for any length of time, you most likely have reached a point where you stopped seeing the results you saw when you first began. This undoubtedly is frustrating and unmotivating, and usually leads to giving up completely, putting you back where you started. Knowing how to avoid a plateau and realizing when you have hit a plateau is critical to helping you meet your goals. Read on to learn more about how to avoid a plateau and how you can keep your progress in high gear!

Q: What is a plateau and why does it happen?

A: If you have been exercising with a specific exercise routine and/or a specific diet for several weeks and you no longer see the results as you did when you began – you have likely hit a plateau. Simply put, a plateau occurs because of your body’s ability to adjust to routines or diets. As a result, your body does not respond effectively to the same regiment over time. Essentially, your body becomes “complacent” without change.


For the last 6 weeks, you have been eating a low-calorie, low-fat diet and following an exercise routine 4 days per week, 30 minutes on the treadmill and 30 minutes of resistance exercise (the same exercises at the same intensity). For the first 4 weeks, you lost on average 1½ pounds per week but since then you have been at the same weight or maybe even gained back some of the lost weight.

What you can do to get back on track:

You might also need to switch up your workouts – try increasing your repetitions, instead of 12 reps at 10 pounds do 25 repetitions with 5 pounds. For cardio exercise, you can interval train – walk 2 minutes then run (or walk on an incline) for 1 minute and do this repeatedly for 20-30 minutes.

Try changing up your calorie intake – believe it or not, adding more quality calories can kick up your metabolism. Eat different whole foods, more carbohydrates in the form of whole grains, fruits, and veggies (the most important fuel for the body!), or increase your protein intake.

Q: How can I avoid a plateau?

A: Follow these guidelines:

Keep your body “on its toes.” It typically takes your body about 4-6 weeks to experience the “training effect” – after that, your body adjusts to the routine and your body does not respond as effectively. Change up your routines every 3-5 weeks in both your diet and exercise.

Eat the right foods at the right time. Eat higher carbohydrate meals in the morning and earlier in the day and lower carbohydrate meals later in the day.

Rest. Rest is critical to effective training. Now this does not mean you can be lazy for a week or two! Massage, walking, quality sleep, lighter workouts, and stress management are all active forms of rest that will help promote your progress.

Drink more water. Drink at least 65-85 ounces of water every day – not only will your skin, hair, and digestive system thank you, but you will have more energy and this will help you manage weight as well!

Start the 'new you' with this quick and healthy meal:


1-2 lb. fillet of Salmon
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper
Hot or plain paprika, optional
Cedar cooking plank or baking sheet

Yogurt-Dill Sauce
1-cup Greek-style low fat yogurt
¼ cup peeled and diced cucumber
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Juice of ½ lemon
6-7 sprigs fresh dill, chopped (or 1-2 tsp dried)
Dash cumin
Salt & pepper

Yogurt-Dill Sauce: Mix all ingredients above and season to taste. You can make this ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator.

This sauce is also delicious with chicken, turkey, London broil, on sandwiches…get creative!

Preheat oven to 400F. Place cooking cedar plank (available at most grocery stores or home goods stores) in the oven to preheat as well (put it on a cookie sheet in case juices spillover. Be sure to read the instructions on the planks as some require soaking before use.) Season the salmon with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika. Once the oven is full temperature, place the salmon skin-side-down on the plank. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until cooked thoroughly.

Place a spoonful of yogurt-dill sauce next to your fillet of fish and ENJOY!

To download free quick workouts checkout

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