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Overcoming Athletic Plateaus

It happens to the greats. It happens to the worst. It happens to us — and it's probably happened to you.

Everybody experiences plateaus. Period.

If you're at a plateau right now, you're probably beating yourself up and questioning why you're not improving, why you're just not achieving what you want to achieve, and how you’ll ever get over this.

The reality is that you're most likely hitting a plateau because your body has reached the strength or intensity you've been pushing for, or your mindset and negative attitude are holding you back. No matter what the cause is — there's always a way to break through and out of your plateau.

"Never say never because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion." - Michael Jordan

Dryworld athlete contemplating athletic plateaus

Understanding the Different Plateaus

If you want to move forward, you must first understand what a plateau is.

A plateau essentially means you’re stuck and is often caused by physical or mental blocks. You can't lift more, go faster, or run longer than you can right now.

Obviously, this has an impact on your mood, your motivation and attitude, and your abilities. But, it's essential to understand why it's happening and that it's an expected and natural part of being an athlete.

Most of the time, physical plateaus are typically caused by too much consistency and not enough variety. If you spend your training sessions doing the same thing every time, like doing the same lift cycle for a month with the same sets and reps, your body won’t get enough different stimuli to grow. Too much of any one routine or movement will cause your body and progress to completely stop or even regress.

Mental plateaus, however, are all about your mindset. Whether it's stress, anxiety, depression, perfectionism, or negative thinking, your attitude determines your success. If you're thinking negatively, the chances are pretty high that this will become your reality. You're creating a mental block for yourself, holding yourself back by letting these negative thought patterns continue and grow until they force you to plateau. 

Change Your Mindset

First, whether your plateau is physical or mental, you have to change your mindset. You're frustrated, annoyed, and feeling defeated. But you can't let the negativity win!

Mindset is everything. View every setback as an opportunity to grow and improve even more! Get yourself motivated by incorporating gratitude practices into your routine, or do visualization exercises to visualize what you want to achieve and make it your reality.

No matter what you do to get your mindset back on track, what's essential is bringing those thoughts back into the positive.

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Change Your Workout Plan

While consistency can be the most important part of your workout plan, it can be what holds you back when overcoming a plateau.

Now's the time to switch it up and start a new routine. Whether it's changing how long you work out, switching up your workouts, or training less in a week, try something you've never done before!

It's time to get your body moving in new and different ways. Not only will this help your body get past this plateau, but it'll also improve your mood and motivation! Nobody likes doing the same thing every day, right? The same thing should go for your workout routines. Add a little bit of variety and keep things interesting!

Avoid Overtraining

Even though it might be super tempting to keep pushing yourself to try and get past this plateau, you have to avoid overtraining. Make sure to incorporate rest days into your new workout plan.

Overtraining will add more stress to your body and mind, only bringing you further away from your goals. It's always important to push yourself, but pay attention to your body and know when to take a break.

Embrace Spontaneity

We know that consistency is necessary to growth, but too much repetition can kill it quickly. So embrace some spontaneity in your routine. Have some extra time to kill? Go for a bike ride or try a HIIT workout. Not everything in life can be planned and predicted, and your workout routine can't always be, either!

Hitting a plateau is a frustrating but inevitable part of an athlete's journey. Remember: mindset is everything. A plateau is not a failure; it's an opportunity to grow as a person and become a stronger, better athlete. Change your mindset, change your future.

“A champion is defined not by their wins, but by how they can recover when they fall.” – Serena Williams

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