Six Ways to Break Out of a Fitness Plateau

photo of people working out

I’m pretty sure we can all identify with starting a new healthy eating plan or new exercise routine, and getting to a certain point where the novelty wears off, and one starts falling flat.  Our guest bloggers, Brant Secunda and Mark Allen, co-authors of Fit Soul, Fit Body, have some great ideas on how to re-motivate ourselves and kick start those stale routines.  Don’t forget to check out AOM’s review of their book, Fit Soul, Fit Body.  We’re giving away 3 copies of this great book!

Six Ways to Break Out of a Fitness Plateau

By Brant Secunda and Mark Allen

Adapted from their new book, “Fit Soul, Fit Body”

Starting a new workout or eating plan is easy; sticking to it isn’t. What do you do when, after the first couple months of a new eating or exercise regimen, you hit a place where you’re not making progress, your motivation is flagging, and you feel discouraged?

Don’t worry. It happens to everyone. Here are six simple ways for you to move beyond negative emotions so you will get re-energized and refocused on your health and fitness goals.

Address the stress.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that stress causes a decreased willingness to take on new endeavors. If you’re stuck in the same old eating and exercise habits, get out of that rut by clearing away the stress in your life. Increase your sleep; seek out lighthearted people and fun activities; reduce your intake of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol; and get more sun and fresh air. Reducing stress helps you regain the motivation to change.

Fight your fear.

Believe it or not, fear is a key reason that we hit fitness plateaus and then stay there. By fighting your fear of failing, you’ll feel triumphant and gain a renewed sense of energy and purpose. When fear pops up and tells you it’s hopeless, fight back by breaking your task into the smallest steps you can manage — say, by doing the first 5 minutes of your workout — so you will experience yourself succeeding and chase away that fear.

Have a structure.

Many people respond well to structure. If winging it does not keep you on track, then make a schedule of your workouts and your personal goals each week. Hold yourself accountable to them. This creates clear, short-term, week-by-week goals. A written fitness schedule is akin to making a contract with yourself.

photo of people working out

Ease up.

Instead of beating yourself up for hitting a plateau, be good to yourself with your exercise. Recharge with an easier training session than planned. Make your workout into something soothing by reducing the intensity, cutting back on the length, finding a friend to come with you, or picking a route that has beautiful scenery.

Reflect on your goals.

Sometimes the reason we get discouraged is because we allow our mood to influence our actions. Maybe you’ve had a bad day and tell yourself it’s pointless to work out, or you convince yourself it’s too hard. Instead, set aside a quiet time to reflect on your goals. One of the best times to do this is when you are trying to decide what your next step or workout should be. You’ll find that the choices you come up with will be quite different if the end goal is what influences the decision rather than your immediate mood or life constraint.

Visualize success–again.

Numerous studies show that if you visualize a goal–and then reinforce it by repeating that goal to yourself over and over–you will probably achieve whatever it is you set out to accomplish. Visualizing your success over and over again allows you to stay involved with your original enthusiasm. Use this any time there is a lull in your motivation.

photo of Fit Soul, Fit Body authors brant secunda and mark allen
Co-authors Brant Secunda and Mark Allen

Shaman-healer and MacArthur Award finalist Brant Secunda and six-time world champion Ironman Mark Allen teach seminars worldwide on fitness, health, and well-being. Their new book, based on the approach they developed, is Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You (BenBella Books). Find out more at

Thank you, Brant Secunda and Mark Allen, for sharing your great wisdom and experience with our readers!

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Beth celebrates the everyday wonders of life with a keen eye for deals, a flare for the color green, and an honest desire to share with her fellow moms here in town! Check out more of Beth's recent articles, and subscribe to our daily email/rss feed to see what she writes next!
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