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Plateaus mean change is needed

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Every exercise regimen, whether geared toward an elite athlete or a postoperative cardiac patient, will inevitably go stale and no longer yield the desired results. This is the nature of our body; it is always striving to maintain balance and will constantly adapt to environmental stresses in order to expend the least amount of energy (calories) possible.

Exercise routines are designed to "stress" the body to shock it out of homeostasis (body equilibrium) in order to initiate change. In response to this shock, the body makes myriad changes to its vital systems in an attempt to maintain homeostasis. It strives to exist at the lowest sustainable metabolic rate in order to conserve energy.

In other words, it hates wasting calories. This is the speed bump every weight loss program runs over, since the goal is to waste as many calories as possible.

Plateaus happen to those wishing to gain strength as well. Skeletal muscle is "expensive" in terms of calories for your body to not only increase, but maintain. The saying "If you don’t use it, you lose it" rings true. After all, why should the body maintain such a "wasteful" luxury if it’s not getting used?

Here are some tips on dealing with plateaus:

» Don’t let yourself get too comfortable. A sure sign that your workout regiment is hitting a plateau is that it’s getting easier to do. Is the elliptical your "go to" machine? Can you jam away at a high rpm and read a magazine at the same time? Try switching to a machine that requires your undivided attention. Give the Stairmaster a try or take a Spinning class.

» Add some muscle. Remember, muscle requires a lot of energy to maintain. By definition and function, they are the "fat burners" of the body. If cardio alone is not losing the weight anymore, then developing a few pounds of muscle is just the thing to give your body the nudge it needs.

» Give your body time to rest. Are you doing all the above and still nothing? The body is only flesh and blood; it cannot perform at high levels of intensity indefinitely. Incorporating proper rest sequences allows the body to repair itself from the effects of exercise. Oftentimes, after the repair, the body is stronger and more able to function at a higher level than before.

Reggie Palma is an exercise physiologist and personal trainer. He has a fourth-degree black belt in the Filipino martial art kali. He can be reached at or 392-2314.
NOTE: Tips based on a person who wants to lose 30 pounds, leads a sedentary lifestyle, has little exercise experience and is a yo-yo dieter. This person also has a full-time job that imposes time limitations. Consult a physician before starting any diet or fitness regimen.


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