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For your health: Plateau-Schmateau

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February 15, 2011 | 1,342 views | Post a comment

I exercise six days a week and I watch what I eat (I keep a detailed food journal) but I haven’t been able to get down to my goal weight. How can I break this plateau?

-- Bailie

DEAR BAILIE: Six days a week--and a food journal! You are committed! I’m thinking that you need to look at the quality of your current exercise regimen, not just the quantity. The thing about exercise is that your body adapts to a particular activity and routine pretty quickly. So when you first start working out with weights, for instance, you’re going to see lots of progress initially, but if you keep doing the exact same exercises (even if you lift heavier weights) for more than about 3 weeks, your results are going to taper off. I think one of the main reasons why we get frustrated with exercise is that we try so hard to establish a routine, but in the end, the routine works against us. You get on the treadmill at the same speed you’ve always set it on, for the same time, and after a while, you stop seeing the results on the scale.

What to do? I’m not sure what your current exercise regimen is like, but you need to shake it up. Here are some suggestions:

--Try intervals. Breaking up your current cardio routine with short bursts of intense exercise will help jolt your body into super calorie-burning mode. For instance, if you’re a walker or runner, warm up for a couple of minutes at moderate intensity, then walk (or run) hard for two minutes, and slow down for a minute. You don’t really even need to use a watch to do this--just pick out landmarks on your walking route, use laps at a track (or in a pool), whatever. This could even help you cut down on the amount of time you spend working out because you’re burning more calories in less time.

--Do something completely different. Now, I know this one is hard, because of the whole routine thing. But consider trying a new class at the gym, or swim some laps instead of walk, or try a walk/run routine plan (walk 2 minutes, run 1 minute) instead of walking only. Doing something new forces your body to work different muscles and function in a way that’s different than it’s used to--which translates into a bigger calorie burn.

--Get a trainer. Trainers aren’t just for women (and men) with zero body fat. A trainer is a great investment because few of us can push ourselves as far as a trainer will. If you’re on a budget, consider group training, where you pool your dollars with a couple of friends and hire a trainer for the group. Or even pair off with a knowledgeable friend who can spot you and function as a coach.

Lisa Delaney is editor of Spry magazine and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl. She shed 70 pounds -- and six dress sizes -- and has kept if off for 20 years. Send your questions to

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