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Feeling Stuck? Your Fitness Plateau Might Not Be a Bad Thing

Michael Cumming served 12 years in active duty infantry in the Marine Corps, with deployments to Iraq. He faced PTSD and survivor’s guilt when he returned to civilian life and remembers feeling lost.

A VA counselor learned Michael used to mountain climb and encouraged him to reclaim it as a healthy hobby. Being in good shape for climbing, and understanding the psychological aspects of reaching summits, gives him an edge on his fitness training. But even Michael is not immune to hitting fitness plateaus. That’s why a Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) class on the subject got his attention.

“The biggest thing I learned was that it’s OK to hit a plateau every once in a while, and that it’s not a bad thing,” Michael said. “I also learned that by varying my workouts a bit, I can lessen the time I’m in a plateau.”

What Is a Fitness Plateau?
Have you ever restarted a workout after a long pause? Maybe you felt muscles you forgot you had. And your soreness was new and exciting — it gave you a sense of accomplishment. But after a while, maybe you became bored or felt like you weren’t making progress. Could this be a fitness plateau?

“It’s common to experience the frustration of reaching a plateau in weight loss or exercise,” said Randa Osman, a staff member with WWP’s Physical Health and Wellness program.

“We want you to understand what plateaus mean and see them as opportunities to continue progressing toward your wellness goals.”  

WWP’s recent virtual class gave warriors like Michael and their families a chance to learn how to maximize a stagnant, plateau period and share with each other how they manage their wellness routines.

In fitness terms, a plateau may be a stable period or a transitional period. It might feel like something is temporarily in your way, preventing you from making progress. Often, we think of plateaus negatively, but what if this is where you need to be to reach the next level?

“We encourage people to celebrate their plateaus and just shift their mindset to view this time in a positive sense,” Randa said.

Think about it: If you’ve reached a plateau, you have pushed yourself past barriers and already built yourself to be stronger than you were when you started. So, celebrate! Be excited that you’ve reached this moment.

“You put yourself through challenges and you have overcome,” Randa said.  “Use a plateau to recover and create a plan for the next challenge or the next hill to climb.”

How to Climb Higher
Randa teaches participants the FITT principle. It stands for Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type. To progress out of a plateau, pick one or two of those components and alter them to challenge your body and mind. Class participants shared examples of their own plateaus and how they come out of those flat periods.

For many, it’s a simple shift in mindset. Making one small change can make a big difference and help you conquer the next challenge.

Just ask Michael, who continues to grow in his own training and share what he has learned with other warriors. Michael started a nonprofit that grew out of a college internship with a guide company while getting a degree in outdoor leadership and education.

“I knew how healing the outdoors and climbing had been to me, so I took that and turned it into a program,” Michael said. Through the nonprofit he founded, Operation Climb On, he has shared his love of climbing with other veterans for the past seven years.

Warriors and their families can register for classes to help get through any fitness plateau during the pandemic. Stay tuned to WWP’s social channels for additional info. And if you are not a WWP warrior, look for fitness classes offered online or in small groups in your community.

WWP’s virtual opportunities include yoga and meditation classes, cooking workshops, and at-home fitness workouts modified to use common household items. WWP also created a virtual cycling community, where warriors interact online through coffee socials, virtual riding challenges, cycling maintenance tutorials, and more.

Click here to learn more about WWP’s Adaptive Sports, Physical Health and Wellness, and Soldier Ride® programs.

Contact: Vesta M. Anderson – Public Relations, vanderson@woundedwarriorproject.org, 904.570.0771

About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers – helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.