Overcoming Training Stalls
Your workout routine – and likely your entire daily schedule – is probably carefully planned to make you as efficient as possible. While balancing all of your other responsibilities, you also work hard to keep making progress and move ever closer toward your goals.
Unfortunately, plenty of stuff can get in the way. What can you do, though, do avoid these stalls in your training? Are there any potential roadblocks that you should be particularly watchful for?
Before delving into the common problems and practical solutions, though, it’s important to make one thing clear: You are going to hit some kind of training stall. It’s simply going to happen.
By accepting this sad and frustrating fact outright, though, you can lessen the discouragement that you face when it finally happens. In fact, the forced time off triggered by these stalls could be a valuable thing that actually complements your training in the long term.
First, regular rest periods are an important strategy to prevent overuse injuries and overtraining syndrome – both of which can actively work against your fitness progress. These stalls can also help in a more subtle way by giving you time to step back and objectively reevaluate your training. Is there something that could change? Exercises that you really just hates or aren’t benefiting from? Could plan new routes or incorporate some form of cross-training?
So, while the yet-to-be-discussed obstacles are generally unplanned an unwanted, a little change in mindset could actually make them a useful part of your overall progress.
Potential Problems and Workable Solutions
What are some of the factors that could get in your way, though? Granted, the following list is by no means all-encompassing, but it does capture some of the more common issues that you’re likely to encounter.
Lack of Time
By far one of the most commonly cited reasons for either skipping workouts or never getting started at all, a busy schedule can take some clever thinking to overcome. First, it’s important to realize that some form of physical activity should be a priority. Even if you aren’t training with any specific goal or event in mind, movement is simply part of self-care. In fact, activity is such a fundamental part of a healthy lifestyle that inactivity has been called “the biggest public health problem of the 21st century” by numerous health experts.
Recognizing that exercise is vitally important, though, isn’t all that’s required to get moving. Often people simply overestimate how much time they need to devote to their workouts – which can be discouraging and intimidating. Of course, the exact amount of time that you spend exercising will depend on your goals, fitness level and a host of other individual factors. Still, for individuals looking to maintain a healthy cardiovascular system, the American Heart Association recommends just 2.5 hours per week of moderate-intensity exercise.
Assuming that you’re getting the full eight hours of sleep each night, you’re likely up and moving for about 112 hours each week. For general health purposes, then, exercise only needs to take up about 2 percent of your time. To make things even easier, research has found that it doesn’t actually matter how you divide up those 2.5 hours. In theory, you could perform multiple small workouts spread throughout the week or one big on the weekends.
However you look at it, the point is this: Exercise can be made to fit your schedule and the two should never get in each other’s way.
For runners, cyclists and other primarily-outdoor athletes, the weather can hold a powerful influence over your workouts. Not only does this work in the obvious “don’t-feel-like-running-in-the-rain” sort of way, but the weather can also operate on you in more subtle ways.
For one thing, rain, snowy and just generally unpleasant weather can completely sap your motivation and energy levels. As easy as it is to be excited about a run on a beautiful, calm, sunny day, it’s just as difficult to get out there when the weather is gross.
But there are also practical concerns. Depending on your route, the weather can present safety hazards that make it unwise to head outside for your workouts.
So… what’s a runner to do? The obvious solution is to hop on a treadmill and simply move your standard routine indoors. For some runners, though, this could be a horrible fate. If that describes you, then, you might consider using this time to cross train. Many indoor activities like strength training, Pilates and swimming can all complement your larger routine while keeping you moving and motivated.
There’s a very strong chance that – in your mind – the term “training stalls” directly and primarily refers to the dread plateau. Which, considering the prevalence of this particular stalling item, makes sense. Strictly speaking, though, training plateaus are that point in your progress where your body just stops making progress. This could mean that you aren’t getting any faster or that you aren’t able to break that distance you’ve been working on. Or, frustratingly, you could even start to slide backwards and lose progress.
In truth, there are lots of reasons why you might hit a plateau. Most often, though, the issue is one of programming. As you know, your body must be progressively challenged in order to make positive changes in your performance and composition. If these challenges come either too fast or too slow, your brain won’t get the right signals and those adaptations just won’t happen.
When plateaus occur, then, it’s time to reevaluate your workout routine. Depending on your goals, this could be a perfect chance to jump into some crosstraining and focus on an otherwise neglected area of your fitness. If you’re not making progress on your runs, then, you could back off and primarily strength train or cycle for a few weeks.