We’re re-publishing this article to help if you’re stuck with the thing you love to do. Please share it with that friend who is stuck in a rut!
Her shoulders are rounded, and she fidgets, crossing and uncrossing her legs. I feel her nervousness and immediately empathize.
She's here for her first body assessment, a 45-minute session focused on how she feels about herself, and it's intense. We gather typical data: weight, photos, and percentage of body fat and muscle mass. We dive into what she's hoping to accomplish physically and what she's struggling with mentally.
I pull together my paperwork after the scales, measuring tapes, and calipers are put away and ask the woman on the little couch what she's here to do and how I can help her.
She tears up a bit and says, "I don't know...I'm just feeling really unhappy with my body right now."
I dive in a bit more, asking specific questions and trying to get to the root of things.
I feel her frustration. It strikes a familiar chord.
I ask more about the details of her training, and she maps out her week for me:
I know immediately what her problem is, but it's delicate and I want to deliver the news in a gentle way…
This sweet woman has fallen into the cardio trap. Her training is linear, and her body has responded by hitting a textbook plateau.
Runners are the biggest victims of this sticky trap. It's not uncommon for marathon runners to put on body fat while training!
"Sue? Can I be straight with you?
"Yes! Of course!"
"I think the running is what's got you in this rut."
"What? But I burn 400-1200 calories on my Fitbit every time I got out! And it worked for me before. Maybe I just need more protein or something?"
I can tell I've just hit a nerve.
"Ok, I know what you're thinking! Don't panic. This is very common. We just need a few tweaks."
Whenever I bump up against emotional attachments in fitness, the one ace in my deck is always science.
I explain that because all she's doing is running (a linear, cardiovascular exercise) that her body has cracked the code on it.
Her body figured out that this is predictable and has stopped responding aesthetically. We can easily take away two to three days of running and supplement some smart, complementary strength training.
I laugh, "I get that. You won't! You'll also likely find your runs more enjoyable. You'll likely become faster, with less pain. The other cool thing is that it's a new thing and your body will respond quickly. You'll feel stronger and look toned! It's a slam dunk all around."
The thing is, when we know the science there is usually an easy answer. This woman loves to run. Unfortunately, it doesn’t love her back.
The big takeaway is: if your training is predictable, your body will catch on. It'll throw a wrench in the works of your physical progress.
Become versatile and get one step ahead of the game to navigate plateaus with ease.
And lo and behold...she fell in love with it.
She still loves her runs, and she uses the other options to make them even better. She lost fat weight and gained muscle. Her times were better.
And she finally got out of that rut. In more ways than one.