Whether you’ve been exercising for years or you’re just getting started, plateaus in fitness are inescapable. I’d like to introduce a concept of the 1%. In a world where it’s believed that more is “better”, it is my job as a fitness professional to deconstruct that idea. Generally around January 21st is when all of the “resolutioners” begin to trickle out of the gym and begin falling off the wagon of fitness that they were once so eager about. The idea of the 1% concept is a practice that can help prevent individuals from straying from their goals and even make health, wellness, and fitness more enjoyable.
The 1% concept encourages you to do something– anything– to make you 1% better. These activities don’t have to be groundbreaking or earth-shattering choices. It can be something as easy as taking a 15-minute break from being on your phone, adding in a quick stretch routine before your day, or even just eating breakfast. Whatever your choice is, make a conscious effort to say that, because of this action, I am 1% better than I was yesterday. Eventually, these practices will become easier and more habitual as you continue to do them. Remember that everything takes time and not to be too hard on yourself if your 1% looks different from day to day.
Here are some ways that you can continue making wellness your own and find methods that work for you:
1. Change the tempo
Changes in the tempo of your exercises are a great way to build strength when you’ve been stuck for a while. Adding isometric holds to your movements build time under tension for the muscles. For example, if you’re doing a squat, an isometric hold would be pausing at the bottom of the movement for about 3-5 seconds before exploding back up to the top. Another tempo change option is to work on the eccentric (or lowering) portion of the movement. Using the squat example, an eccentric focus would mean you are moving slow and controlled to the bottom of the squat– taking about 3-5 seconds to get to the bottom– before pushing away from the floor and getting back to the top.
2. Swap out your normal routine
When you realize that whatever you were previously doing is no longer serving you a good purpose, why continue to do it? Maybe it’s time to add strength training to your routine or more mobility work for stiff bodies. I believe that, oftentimes, people forget that your health journey is lifelong. Everything you do revolves around your health in one way or another, so take some time to explore all of the options that are out there.
3. Eat, please!
Nutrition is the foundation of good health. When approaching your nutrition plan, the key to success is balance. Unhealthy diet culture is centered around restricting foods from you and establishing that there are foods that are good and foods that are bad. While it is important and beneficial to limit the amount of highly processed foods you eat, it is equally (if not more)
important to listen to your body and allow yourself freedom to consume foods that you enjoy occasionally. Creating a healthy relationship with food will open doors for you to explore intuitive eating and fueling your body with the nutrients that it needs.
4. Add recovery to your program
Many times a plateau in your fitness can be a result of overtraining and under-recovering. Simply put, this means you’re working too much and not giving your body enough time to recover. If going to the gym 3-5 times per week is part of your routine, add in days where you are doing active recovery like walking or low-intensity cardio or yoga and mobility drills. Recovery outside of the gym can look like: getting a massage, spending time in the sauna or ice baths. These techniques work to recover your muscles from stress and fatigue from strength training as well as hit key elements like your central nervous system.
5. Adjust your mindset
Strength training aside, your health not only encompasses the physical realm but also the mental and spiritual. Daily practices of meditation, prayer, journaling, or breathing are great ways to ground yourself and shift your focus to the present and put into focus your priorities or answers to questions or challenges you’re currently facing. These are effective practices that help keep you balanced as you progress in your health journey. Vitamins and supplements are also great options for natural remedies for gut health and mental health. Believe it or not, your gut health plays a big role in your general wellness, so ask your doctor if multivitamins and supplements are right for you. More often than not, we are deficient in one area or another because we are not getting enough nutrients from our diet. Once again, the idea that health is a lifelong journey will assist you in creating sustainable, healthy habits that make life just a little easier.