You’re going to the gym regularly and you’re eating well - so why are the scales not reflecting all of your hard work? Yep, it’s happened. You’ve plateaued.
The journey to fitness success can be a turbulent one, but not to fret, as we asked fitness trainer and exercise and Get The Gloss Expert Jane Wake for the best ways to lose weight for a reliable roadmap for getting back on track when frustration threatens to sabotage your goals. “I have worked through lots of weight loss plateaus with clients,” says Jane. “It can feel so tough but it really doesn’t have to be that way! Here's how…”
1. Stop stress in its tracks
“Stress and lack of sleep will make a difference, so start looking at ways in which you can ditch the stress and increase your sleeping hours. They go hand in hand, so deal with one and you will probably get the other sorted too,” says Jane. “It is also worth remembering that exercise helps with both of these things, so if you are finding yourself ditching your training because you are stressed or tired, remind yourself that the reality is the reverse – train and you will reduce your stress and sleep better,” she explains.
“So go get on that bike, go to the gym – do not pass GO, do not slump on the sofa, pick up the crisps, work an extra hour, down a bottle of wine...it’s a slippery slope if you do!”
2. Don't train longer, train smarter
As counter-intuitive as it seems, pushing through a plateau needn’t mean increasing the length of your workouts. Often the best plan of action is just to make some small but effective changes. “An extra 30 minutes on a treadmill may burn an extra 300 calories but the positive effect of this, particularly long-term, will be minimal,” explains Jane. “If you've got the time and it makes you feel better, then do it! But make sure your training is completely balanced and that you don’t sacrifice the following.”
- Moving consistently every day: research shows that people who generally move more burn far more calories overall than people who go to the gym regularly but sit most of the rest of the day.
“Movement must be a part of your daily life, question sitting for longer than an hour at a time during waking hours - keep telling yourself that being on the move is literally keeping you alive.”
- Pushing your anaerobic threshold at least once a week: i.e. the heart in your mouth stuff! And as long as there are no medical reasons not to push it, then you should do it at least once a week. Try spin classes, HIIT training, bootcamps, power yoga (I'll even take 3 steps at a time up the escalators – it works, try it!). Watch out for how it stresses your body though – it should always be a positive stress. I have had to ditch running recently due to an old injury and instead I do HIIT training on a cross trainer or bike. It’s not about the impact, it’s about the intensity – 30 seconds absolutely killing it, 30 seconds rest and repeating it 6 times is all you need.
- Weight training with whole body movements at least twice a week - on a good week, make it 3-4 times. Forget hour-long gym sessions; instead try power yoga or Pilates, body resistance like TRX training or circuits that include movements for the whole body and where you feel fatigue everywhere from your arse to your elbow! You can do this in just 30 minutes. THIS is the key not only to long-term weight loss but also long-term health.
- Technique is everything: it stops you getting injured, makes your exercise more effective and makes you look better - just holding a tall spine and drawing in through your inner core muscles will lose pounds off you in an instant and you will get far better results. Opt for a really experienced trainer or instructor and take an educational approach to exercise. By understanding how it makes your body work, you'll get far better results.
- Train from within: Yogis call it your Chi, Pilates teachers call it your inner core or ‘zip line.’ I learned it through martial arts rather than via a textbook – we called it Ki - it's a feeling of strength that comes from within you. It’s connected to your breath, it’s about contracting muscles through your centre and feeling very relaxed, calm but also incredibly strong. Confused? Get yourself along to a Tai Chi session, a yoga or Pilates class. You may not get it straight away but once you've harnessed it – trust me, it’s so empowering that you'll be leaping over that plateau and bounding into new heights. It will also flatten your stomach better than any ab crunch!”
3. Give your fitness an influx of fun
They say time flies when you’re having fun and exercise is no exception. So if you’re having trouble finding the motivation to move past a lack of weight loss progress, take the focus off of losing weight and onto enjoying your workouts. “Train consistently by doing something you can enjoy,” recommends Jane. “Whether it’s a 50 minute walk to work because it’s stress-free, going to the gym, cycling, swimming, booking in for a class – if you love it, it will love you back even more!”
4. Follow in your fitness heroes’ footsteps
Ultimately, exercise helps us achieve a better quality of life in our later years. So take inspiration from those who have always enjoyed an active lifestyle to see what’s worked for them and how they’ve adapted their workout plans to better suit their ages and life circumstances. “I had the enormous pleasure of interviewing Honor Blackman, the original Bond girl, when she was in her 70s,” says Jane. “She is now 89 - still beautiful, strong and still acting.
“She told me about how in the Avengers (the original 60s version) she learned how to do Judo so that she could do all of her own stunts. She was incredibly fit and despite a back injury, practised Pilates and still moved like someone in their 20s. Look at older women you really admire and who you think look good – Madonna, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Michelle Pfeiffer, Julianne Moore - these women won’t tell you that they've exercised manically all of their lives, but they will have done most of the above in a natural and life affirming way (excluding Madonna - she will have done all of them very purposefully!).”
5. Become a more mindful (but not more miserable) eater
“Finally, eating should, where possible, be positive,” says Jane. “Whether it’s a glass of wine or a nutri-dense smoothie - whatever you consume, do it for the right reasons. No one is perfect on this score (and if they are - they are neither female nor indeed human!). It’s about being mindful of it and knowing that if you do go off the rails, you can jump back on and that it really is fine to get support and help if you can't.”
Find out more about Jane on her website