Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Stuck in a rut with your workouts and on a plateau?

What can you do to shake up your workout when you begin to plateau? Well here are some simple suggestions.

Method 1 – Calorie confusion. Your body is smart, but easily confused. It quickly realizes when you're giving it, say, 1,800 calories a day but is thrown off kilter when you alter your calorie intake from day to day. Many dieters purport that upping calorie intake by 300 calories for two days, dipping below that threshold for two days and continuing that cycle for several weeks will keep your body guessing and jolt it back into the fat-melting business.

Method 2 – Split workouts. Exercise does not cause a permanent uptick in metabolism, but it does cause a temporary increase each time you hit the treadmill or weight room, especially if you don't just go through the motions. Working out several times a day (two to three short, quick, intense workouts lasting anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes) not only burns the same number of calories as if you did it all at once but presumably delivers several periods of metabolic "after-burn," during which the body continues to burn calories at a higher rate even after you have stopped exercising. So instead of one after-burn period, you now have several and should theoretically burn slightly more calories.

How many more? It's hard to say. It may not add up to more than 20 to 30 calories over the course of a 24-hour period, but in the weight loss game, little changes can potentially mean a lot. They might be the few extra calories that tip the scales in your favor.

Method 3 – Change your exercise routine. In any way. If you run, cycle. If you ellipticize, walk. If you swim, dry yourself off, change your clothes and hit a step class. This is based on the same principle as calorie confusion, which is that any change is good and will get the body's fat-burning gears revved up and moving once again. One change I've found especially helpful is to emphasize strength training for a while, especially if you've recently slacked off in that area. Strength training, particularly at a high intensity, will give you a greater after-burn. Though, as with split workouts, it's unlikely to provide much in the way of permanent metabolic effect, those temporary turbo boosts may add up to some real body composition changes.

Method 4 – Fidget. If exercise and diet aren't doing it for you, aim to burn several 100 more calories throughout the day through lifestyle activities. Many people who are dedicated exercisers and watch what they eat sit at a desk all day without so much as shifting in their chairs (as I mentioned in a recent post, the average American now spends more than half the day sitting). Even if you just commit to standing for several hours a day, the calorie burn could add up. Sitting at your desk burns about 80 calories an hour, whereas standing burns about 115. Over the course of the day, that's an opportunity to expend about 175 calories. Multiply that out for an entire year, and that's 64,000 calories you didn't burn, or 18 pounds you either gained or didn't lose.

And that's just one example of how adding more movement to your lifestyle could potentially help you drop a clothing size. The old adage to park at the far end of the parking lot may seem boring but it can really work. Here are some more tips on how to add movement into your daily routine.

Method 5 – Get real. Have you really been as virtuous as you say you've been? Let's go to the videotape. Or at least the food and workout journal. If you haven't been losing ground or if you've even been gaining ground, start keeping a diary and pore over it to see what's truly going on. This will do two things for you: It will make you think twice before reaching for that second cookie, and it will help you see what typical eating and movement patterns emerge.

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