If you’ve ever finished a workout and felt like you didn’t really achieve anything, it’s probably nothing to worry about — just a bump in the road on your fitness journey. If it keeps happening, however, there’s a good chance you’ve hit a fitness plateau.

Luckily, there are many ways to freshen up your routine and regain your momentum. Let’s start by learning exactly what a fitness plateau is, and then we’ll explore some common causes and solutions.

What is a fitness plateau and how do you know if you’re in one?

Fitness plateaus happen when you stop making progress in your usual fitness routine. They can have mental and emotional symptoms — such as a sense of boredom or lack of motivation — as well as physical signs, including struggling to achieve your goals or simply not feeling challenged during workouts. These are clear signs that your mind and body have adapted to the demands of your usual routine and a change is needed.

The experience can be discouraging, but you need to be able to recognise a plateau to break through it. Listen to what your body is telling you and be ready to adjust your fitness plan. After all, a plateau is not a dead end but a detour that needs a fresh approach.

Can a fitness plateau resolve itself?

A fitness plateau might end on its own. Try focusing on enjoying the training process and see where that takes.

However, if that doesn’t work after a couple of weeks, to make a breakthrough you’ll need to carry out intentional changes to your workouts, diet or overall lifestyle. This could mean upping the intensity of your sessions and paying closer attention to your nutrition. In some cases, a plateau can signal the need for rest. Overtraining is a common issue, but it might be that taking a step back is all that’s needed to kickstart progress again.

The common causes of fitness plateaus – and how to solve them

  • Burnout: If you’re feeling exhausted and dreading your workouts, you might be experiencing burnout. Add more rest days into your routine to give your body a chance to recover or swap a gym session for some well-earned downtime – maybe spend a workout day at the spa instead, and feel the physical and mental benefits of sitting in a steam room for a while.
  • Lack of variety: Repeating the same workouts can lead to a plateau, but you can breathe new life into your routine by trying new exercise classes that challenge your body in different ways. At David Lloyd Clubs, for example, our range of classes covers everything from BLAZE to Reformer Pilates.
  • Lifestyle factors: Stress, tiredness and diet can all affect your performance. Try tweaking your everyday routine to see if doing some things differently works for you. Some simple tweaks include consciously staying properly hydrated and getting an extra half an hour of sleep per night; little things could make a big difference.
  • Incorrect form: If your technique is off or you’re not using gym equipment properly, your progress will eventually plateau and you might even get injured. It’s easy to do, but also very easy to solve! Work with a Personal Trainer to ensure you’re doing exercises correctly.
  • Not challenging yourself enough: Workouts ideally should be fun, but if they’re starting to feel too easy, it’s time to step it up. Try working out with friends to boost your motivation or use a fitness tracker to set and achieve new goals.

Is it normal to plateau when working out?

Absolutely! Fitness plateaus are very common. When you first start a workout routine, your body responds rapidly in what is known as the ‘adaptation phase’. This is where the most noticeable changes occur, whether you’re building muscle or increasing stamina. As your body gradually gets used to the routine, your progress inevitably slows down.

It’s a bit like learning a new skill. At first, improvements are fast and obvious, but progress comes in smaller increments over time, needing more focus and refinement. Your body works the same way, becoming more efficient to make workouts that may have challenged you in the past feel much easier.

The important thing is to understand that plateaus are an expected part of exercise. Instead of becoming demotivated, look at each plateau as an opportunity to learn more about your body and what it needs to progress. Fitness is a journey, not a destination!

Fitness plateaus are certainly frustrating, but if you’re a David Lloyd Clubs member, you’ll find all the support you need to overcome any obstacles. With a wide variety of facilities all under one roof, it’s easy to keep your fitness routine fresh and challenging. If you’re not a member, find your nearest club to get started.