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Reasons your fitness progress may be stalling
It's easy to fall into a fitness rut and for progress to stall. If you've hit a plateau, consider the following small changes and get back on track. - photo by Kim Cowart
I work out five days a week, eat healthy and still cant lose weight/gain muscle.

If I had a dollar for every time Ive heard a version of this over the past 12 years, I could pay for my kids college tuition.

I get it. You think youre doing everything right, but nothing changes; at least you dont think youre changing. When we first start a new fitness class or improve our eating habits, change happens quickly. But rapid change doesnt last forever, When it stalls, or even backtracks, we get frustrated.

If youre hitting a fitness plateau or find yourself taking a few steps backwards, there may be a few simple things youre doing or not doing that are derailing your fitness progress.

  1. Sloppy form. I have a mantra: "Its not 'what' you lift, but 'how' you lift that matters. The goal of strength training isnt to move weight around; its to target a specific muscle group to make it stronger. If your goal is to strengthen your biceps, but while youre lifting the bar youre moving your back and elbows, your biceps arent benefitting and youll likely wind up injured. Form matters! Stop lifting with your ego and lift with your muscle. Not sure if youre doing it right? Ask questions. A good trainer or fitness instructor can help. Make sure your source is certified and knowledgable.
  2. Getting into a rut. I love to run. But I dont do it every day. In fact, depending on the time of year, sometimes I dont run much at all. Doing the same thing every day is the quickest way to get in a rut mentally and physically. Shake things up. Use new muscles. You dont have to change your routine every day, but vary your workouts. Shameless plug for fitness classes I keep a strength class the same for a month, then switch it up. New moves, new muscles, fresh perspectives.
  3. Focusing solely on calorie intake/outtake. Calories are important, but they arent everything. Despite what many think, not all calories are created equally. Counting calories is a great start to getting healthy, but as we learn and grow, so does our understanding of how nutrients affect us. Our bodies are unique. So are our nutritional requirements. If there was an eating plan that truly was one-size-fits-all, wed all be on it. Of course, that isnt true. If youre hitting a plateau, take a closer look at what youre eating, not just how much. If youre not already keeping a food log, start now. Dont just record how much you ate, but how you felt after. Dont know where to start? Hire a nutritionist or health professional. Youre worth the investment.
  4. Eating fake healthy foods. In college, my friends and I would gather every Thursday night, make a full pan of fat-free brownies each, dish up a bowl of low-calorie ice cream and pig out while watching Friends and ER. Breakfast was a fat-free bagel. A snack was a fat-free peppermint pattie. Veggie straws and banana chips were our fruits and vegetables of choice. Because they were fat-free and low-calorie, we thought we were eating healthy. Beware of packaging claims. Avocados and almonds may have fat and be higher in calories, but theyre definitely healthier than my old Snackwell diet.
5. Neglecting strength training. I love cardio. I love to dance, run, bike and elliptical. These activities burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time, but remember, its not all about calories. Strength training is what truly changed the shape of my body. Its increased my bone density, given me more energy and revved up my metabolism. Consistent strength training has helped me recover from accidents and surgeries. It is the cornerstone of my fitness regime, and it should be yours, too.

Everyone hits a fitness plateau at some point. But you dont have to stay there. Be honest. Take a hard look at the little things youre doing that may be pushing you off course. A few small corrections and youll be back on track in no time.