So you’re in a Plateau

You’ve been doing CrossFit for more than 2 years. Remember when you first started? You came in regularly, started eating those “meats, vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar”, did the workouts scaled, then after about a month you started to see some improvements in strength, stamina, & cardiovascular ability. You then upped your training frequency from 3 times a week to 4 or 5 times and whoa, about 6 months into it you start getting PR’s like crazy! Your Deadlift numbers skyrocket. Your running times get faster. You get a strict Pull-up, then two, then five! You’re feeling like the world is your oyster, because it is! You’re daily mood improves, everyone around you is like what the hell is she doing? You’re starting to think you’re some kind of superhero. The next year or so is you coming into the box walking tall every day saying, “What am I going to get next?”

Then, about two years into it, you get nothing. No improvements, no PR’s, You start doubting yourself and wondering what’s wrong with me? You, my friend, have hit the dreaded Plateau. This is sometimes inevitable. It happens when the body starts to get accostomed to what you are doing and does not think it needs to adapt anymore. At this point it’s time to take a deep, hard look at what you are doing to figure out how to get out of this rut.

Let’s look at the theoretical hierarchy of fitness development:

Starting at the bottom is a good, solid base of nutrition. It provides energy and support for your cardiovascular activities or in this case, Metabolic Conditioning. Once you have developed your Metabolic Conditioning, you can then build upon your Gymnastics ability, or bodyweight strength, like Push-ups, Sit-ups and Squats. After your have worked on your kinesthetic awareness and mastery of bodyweight exercises then you can concentrate on manipulating external objects or, as in the chart above, Weightlifting. Sport is at the top, and it is the activity that brings this all together. The sport that you engage in is the expression of all that is below it in this hierarchy. If you don’t have a sport, then insert the word, Life. Need I explain this? Now, imagine that any one of the levels in the pyramid is deficient or underdeveloped. What does that do to the level above it, and the level above that? This brings us to the base of the pyramid. The level that supports all that is above it, Nutrition.

If you are experiencing a plateau, first look at your nutrition. Are you still eating Paleo? There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s very healthy. But according to the Paleo diet you can eat any of the Paleo macronutrients – the proteins, carbs and fats in roughly any amounts and any combinations. If you subscribe to this you might not be eating enough, or you might be eating too much. But, let’s say you can find out exactly how much food your body needs and the right proportions of proteins, carbs and fats it needs to consume? If you were able to do so then you would be eating the right amount of food to fuel your daily activity and your workouts, and not worry about storing any of it as fat. Wouldn’t your body run more efficiently if it had the right amount of fuel without excess baggage? You can actually get stronger and faster by fine tuning your macronutrient consumption. Look into the Zone diet by Barry Sears. Hundreds of thousands of CrossFitters worldwide swear by it. You can also attend our next Zone Seminar to find out how to do it. Dialing in your nutrition can propel you out of your plateau.

After this, look at the workouts that you are doing. Be honest with yourself. Have you started to gravitate toward heavy lifting days because you just love to lift heavy shit all the time? If that’s the case then your endurance has likely suffered, and you are starting to get bigger in many places you do not want to. How about the other way around, do you find yourself skipping heavy lifting days because you want to avoid getting bigger and want to stick to fat burning cardio metcons? If so, then you are likely not building more strength to go faster on your metcons. How about those fricken Running days? “Running is going to make me weak!” you probably heard someone say. Well, avoiding those monostructural days, i.e. running, rowing and rope jumping, will cause you to get slower on those metcons. You end up having to stop and catch your breath more frequently, or you end up taking longer breaks during the workout. Even further than that, do you like doing short, fast metcons and avoid those long, 20 minute WOD’s? Or, are you the opposite? Whatever you are doing, your body is getting used to it and does not feel like it needs to change. Keep doing the same shit and you will get the same shit. To avoid this, keep accurate account of your training. We have an excellent online platform for our members called Beyond the Whiteboard. Use it every day and explore it. You will know what you have been doing and what you have not been doing and it can be a helpful guide to find out what you need to do to get out of your plateau.

Then, check your Intensity. Are you still working out at the same pace you were when you first started- easy, not too strenuous, not too painful. Or are you starting to ramp it up a little. You know, after your body becomes accostomed to the intensity of the workouts you can go harder and faster. Really, it’s true! Try it! If Pull-ups are in the WOD, get back on that bar sooner than you are comfortable doing. If there is a barbell try using that heavier weight, and see if you can consistenly keep good form with it. If you can, stick with it and don’t shave off any plates during the workout. Have you avoided those longer runs- 5k’s and 10k’s? What? You don’t think you can do it? Try! You’ll be amazed at what CrossFit has prepared you for! Increasing your Intensity in a workout is very simple:

Intensity = force x time / distance

Do the math. Increase the weight (or force) and you increase the Intensity. Decrease the time and you can increase the intensity. Increase the distance… blah, blah, blah. You get the picture. BUT there is a caveat to this, there are times when increasing any of those variables can actually decrease the Intensity. What are we talking about? For instance, let’s say you are doing “Diane” which is 21-15-9 rep rounds of 225/155 lb Deadlifts and Handstand Push-ups. If you don’t know what this means it is 21 Deadlifts, 21 Handstand push-ups, 15 Deadlifts, 15 Handstand push-ups and nine Deadlifts and nine Handstand push-ups for time. If you can consistently rock out each rep in this workout about every two seconds then you are doing it at the right pace. However, if you can only do three deadlifts every fifteen seconds you’re not keeping up the intensity of the workout. Same with the Handstand push-ups, if you are only doing five HSPU’s every minute your intensity is low. CrossFit workouts such as this are meant to be fast moving. You have to keep moving on the workouts. You do yourself no good by trying to Rx the shit if you are moving at a turtle’s pace. Scale the weight down appropriately and modify the Handstand push-up with dumbbell Push-presses if you have to. This is the key to keeping the Intensity high. Eventually you will be able to Rx the workouts, but you won’t get there any time soon by looking like a fool trying to Rx it.

Believe it or not but your mobility plays a great role in fitness development. If you have limited range of motion, you are not using all the muscles that you possess to perform a movement. Those neglected muscles then become weak and small and and silently cry out to you, “…why have you foresaken me?” Stop being a meanine and get them back in action. For instance, let’s say you don’t squat below parallel. You never squat below parallel and you don’t want to squat below parallel. Fine, so I challenge you to ass-to-grass squat below parallel and then try standing back up, what happens? Nothing. That’s what. You are silly-ass-stuck-to-the-ground because you have neglected all those muscles that are deep down there. So when you get down deep, you can’t get back up. Thoroughly stretch out, not just before, but after every workout- dynamic stretching before, static stretching afterward. Find out where your limits are and where they need to be, and then work on them.

This is just a start, plateaus occur for many reasons but these are the most common. Give it a good self-diagnostic and then get to work!


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