Fitness In The Fast Lane
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Achieving Goals And Avoiding Plateaus
By Anne B. Minvielle
As we bid adieu to another year, it is usually with great plans for the coming year. Research has shown that among all the commitments, or resolutions, made by people as they ring in the New Year, one of the most popular is to lose weight and improve one’s physical fitness.
The study is on! What constitutes a good weight training programming? What can be done to improve cardiovascular function? Certainly, one of the most important questions is how one can accomplish the goals without becoming bored. More recently the issue of muscle memory has become part of the study of effectiveness of fitness measures. The term plateau is a buzz word with all workout aficionados. All the fitness issues can be overwhelming without a little guidance.
Literature abounds on the issues of health and fitness. A quick trip to a bookstore or a browse on the computer proves that there is a source for the answer to any question the novice might have. The fitness pro with the shoes to prove it is also always looking for the latest in research.
Now, there is far more to working out than going for a run and then lifting a few weights. There are the TRX® water resistant rowing machines; Pilates machines, such as the popular Reform er; stationary bikes for indoor spinning classes; and even wearable fitness trackers. One definitive fact about the fitness industry is that it is always offering something new. And that might be one of its promising features in light of the current research on plateaus in fitness.
Mary Shield is an International Sports Sciences Association Certified Fitness Trainer in New Iberia. In working with clients and teaching a variety of fitness classes, she has found that the term “plateau” is becoming better known. Exercisers have always realized that there are times when their gains slow down and ultimately stop. In the same way, dieters who eat the same food every day eventually find that their weight loss reaches a plateau.
According to Shield, “I have seen clients who get stuck in a spot and are not getting stronger or more flexible. They need to change up their routine to make progress again.” She also points out that one can reach a plateau in cardiovascular fitness as well as strength training. “With a cardio plateau, you find that you can’t run any faster or farther. You need to change it up by running inclines, up and down hills. Cardio machines have features that allow you to walk at varying speeds and engage your arms, such as on an elliptical machine,” she explains.
An understanding of a fitness or cardiovascular plateau is especially important for an individual just beginning to establish an exercise routine. When beginning a new fitness program, a novice is usually enthused. Starting a program yields quick and efficient results. After a while, the results don’t seem to come as fast. That is when boredom and frustration set in.
Shield recommends interval training, which involves combining cardiovascular and weight training. It might also involve changing types of cardio training. For example, one might switch from sprints on the treadmill to elliptical machine training. That program might be mixed with kick boxing.
As an instructor in Tabata training, Shield has witnessed the benefits in changes from cardio to weights and even changes in a specific exercise for a particular muscle. For example, there a several exercises for triceps and using different ones adds variety to the class and keeps the participants focused. Tabata is a variation of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) that was first popularized in Japan.
The members of the class may not even know the profound effect all the changes are producing. The routine is really preventing plateaus, which are the body’s ability to adjust to stress and change. When the participants are engaged in Boot Camp, Tabata, kickboxing, step class and interval training, they are avoiding plateaus by having their muscles avoid adaptation and boredom.
Kallie Landry is the owner of The Gym in New Iberia and is a fitness instructor and personal trainer. She has learned how to keep her clients motivated by helping them realize the results that they are working for are possible with consistency and change. According to Landry, “Yes, there is a plateau and there is also muscle memory. Muscles that you have worked for a while may have to rest because of an injury. You may lose muscle mass and strength, but it is quick and easy to get it back. Someone might also decide to change their main exercise from biking to aerobics classes. After a month, it will be easy to start biking again.”
Landry stresses variables in exercise. She says that someone who runs for exercise and runs the same path, for the same distance, in the same time, will reach a plateau. “I would recommend that someone add weight training. Muscles increase metabolism and that person will burn more calories throughout the day.” Landry says.
“I always recommend that clients take part in classes. They will do things in class that they would not usually do. We change class routines every week,” Landry says. She points out that instructors use various fitness equipment within a class, such as weighted bars, free weights, weighted balls and even drum sticks to liven up the class and challenge the muscles so that they won’t plateau.
Acadiana is full of health clubs; specialized studios, such as yoga or barre; and also one type that teaches techniques attributable to Joseph Pilates in the early 20th century. One visit to a Pilates studio, such as CORE Physical Fitness and Pilates in New Iberia will leave no doubt that there are enough machines and pieces of equipment to fight off plateaus of all kinds. Dusti Neck, PT, MPT and Body Balance instructor is the owner of the studio. As a physical therapist, she is quite adept at spotting muscles that need strengthening and can design a program to meet individual needs. She also directs small groups in the use of various pieces of equipment or in Pilates mat work that has swept the nation as a method to find core support and create flexibility, while promoting a long, lean appearance.
According to Neck, “Pilates is a means to total body fitness, and clients rarely experience burn out because there are varieties in approach to fitness.” She adds that although Pilates is subject to plateaus, her instructors work with her to assure that clients get various workouts with differing equipment to prevent the plateau and keep the body guessing as to what will come next. “There are always accommodations that can be made, and our Pilates exercises have levels. You can always plank for a longer period of time or go deeper into muscles being used,” she says.
Various clients frequent this studio in New Iberia and inevitably ask upon arrival, “Where are we going today?” That simply means what station we are going to be going to in order to train a specific body part. Some machines work all body parts. Sometimes the class will include interval training, in which clients move through a series of exercises on various machines, including Pilates mat work, with all classes taught by certified Pilates instructors including two physical therapists. Classes are kept small because instructors are careful that each client is correctly working the muscles. Neck says, “There are so many machines and mat work that, with an experienced instructor, clients can always be challenged.”
Henry Ford probably knew nothing about Pilates or Tabata, but he did make a meaningful observation that can be applied to exercise. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Interested in new results from your exercise routine? Crank it up, pump it up, run it up! Change is good.