(An article for TRAIN for Her magazine)
Anna Robic decides to commit to a regular gym routine and healthy eating. She's over the moon when she notices results after just two weeks. Encouraged by her success, she sticks rigidly to the miracle formula for the next six months. But, alas, her problem thighs and muffin top start to reappear, which is mortifying for poor Anna. She gets frustrated, loses interest and gives up.
We all know an Anna. Most of us have been in Anna's shoes. The good news is we can wave goodbye to her problem - the dreaded plateau.
When you perform the same exercise, your body adapts to meet the demands put upon it. Before long, it isn't challenged because it knows exactly what's coming. It goes into self-preservation mode and hangs on to its fat stores, burning energy at a slower rate. The good thing is you've become more efficient. The bad thing is your progress will stop and you'll burn less fat. To continually challenge and change your body, you either need to work harder and harder and harder, or work smarter. As a professional athlete, I choose to work smarter. These tips will help you do the same.
Change your environment
Use different terrains. If you're a runner, simply choose different routes: go and hunt for the hills. You can also use intervals: run as fast as you can for five minutes, then do five minutes really easy and repeat. This challenges the body and can be used successfully across most cardio activity. Try high-intensity interval training workouts.
Join a team
Whether yoga, basketball or weightlifting is your thing, take a look around for different local organisations. The unfamiliar movement patterns you'll use when you change sports will challenge your muscles in new ways, which is great for calorie burning and muscle toning. It's a great way to create energy through camaraderie too.
Chart your progress
Aim for two more reps, two more minutes or work to improve your time - all of this will increase your effort level, fitness and fat burn. It's motivating to chart your progress too.
While it's comforting and wise to have a familiar routine, you can work smarter by using these tips to keep your body guessing and create the ultimate fat-burning performance machine.