The Performance Plateau
You train religiously and push yourself during every session, but your endurance has flat-lined, and you’re not setting any new PRs.
What to do:
Dial in fuel and hydration
This is another area where limiting your intake can actually backfire, says Heidi Skolnik, certified nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Conditioning. Often, athletes are too restrictive with their calories and under-eat, she says. Inadequate fueling zaps your energy, which leads to a subpar performance and prevents you from getting the most out of your training. It doesn’t take much to ensure you’re ready to work — Skolnik says 15 to 25 grams of carbohydrates prior to a workout is all it takes to ensure you’re ready to work. That could be a bowl of instant oatmeal, or a small banana.
Dehydration and electrolyte depletion can also mess with your performance (and make you feel like crap). Athletes should consume fluids before, during and after exercising, says Antonucci. “If it’s humid, or you’ve got a particularly long and rigorous workout lined up, be sure to bring along water and salt tabs or an electrolyte replacement drink,” she says. Don’t worry so much about the sugar content of that sports drink either, she adds. There’s a time and place for everything, and while a bottle of Gatorade isn’t a smart choice for a night on the couch, it’s appropriate after a 10-mile run in the sun.
Be cautious of overtraining
You may think “overtraining” is only for those who are slogging through multiple sessions every day. Not so. “Overtraining can also be considered training on lack of sleep and during stressful times in your life,” says Mucurio. “Your body does not differentiate between physical, mental, psychological and social stressors. Therefore, any stress placed on the body can limit your gains.” Make sure that you’re giving yourself time to recover, and allow space to take care of other aspects of your life — even if it cuts into gym time. “It is important to take rest days,” says Garber. “You may be physiologically or psychologically fatigued – or both.”
Mix it up
If you run the same four miles and work through the same weight-training circuit three times a week, you’re bound to hover around the same levels of endurance and strength. “Your body is an amazing machine that quickly adapts to any stimulus,” says Mucurio. “You should switch it up every six weeks to ensure constant improvements.” That could mean swapping cycling for running, lifting dumbbells instead of a barbell, doing more reps at a lower weight, or vice versa. “Adding new movements, different training strategies, and switching the sets and reps will all help you get over that hump,” he says.