Since last October I’ve been running for my life, by reducing my weight, getting physically fitter and learning to control my blood sugar. Lately, though, my rate of improvement seems to have stalled and I find myself on what is called a ‘Plateau’ – and I’ve found this to be both a bad and a good situation.

A ‘plateau’ is defined as ‘an area of fairly level high ground’(as in the picture) or ‘a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress.” In terms of fitness and weight loss, a ‘plateau’ is what’s meant by a period of time during which the body seems to no longer respond to a course of diet change and exercise. When I started my run the changes in weight loss and fitness can were quite sudden and significant and it was all very encouraging.

However, the human body is remarkable in its ability to adapt to changes in circumstance, and this includes changes to what and how much we eat and the degree of exercise we do. The initial change in how much one exercises or the type and amount of food we consume can a biological process called called the basal metabolic rate– that is the rate at which the body burns calories for essential functions while at rest – resulting in the body burning fewer calories to just maintain those essential functions. What I’ve found is that my body adapts, progress slows and discouragement rears its head – and that’s a bad thing.

Last time, I spoke about hitting ‘The Wall’ during exercise (which is when the energy stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver becomes depleted), but the wall is a relatively short phenomenon and fairly easy to deal with. A Plateau can last for days or weeks and be much trickier to deal with, so I’ve come up with a plan to get off the plateau and start making progress again in running for my life – and that’s a good thing.

I figured that I needed to shake things up enough to subvert my body’s adaptation to changes I’ve made in my diet and exercise. So here’s what I’ve done to get off that plateau and back to losing weight and getting fit.

  • Change my diet again. When I first started I made careful note of everything I ate and drank and whenever I noticed a food that seemed to bump up my blood sugar level I either got rid of it from my diet or drastically reduced how much of it I ate (e.g. rice, fizzy drinks and particular brands of wraps). So I’m going to start noting what I eat and drink again and be more rigorous in cutting back or cutting out whatever bumps up my blood sugar or seems to make my weight rise by even a small amount. It does help that the weather is getting warmer and there’s less temptation (and desire) to eat stodgy ‘comfort food’.
  • Cut my portion sizes again. I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten used to my change in diet I’ve started to get lax about portion size. However, I do feel full much quicker than I used to so I’ll bring down portion size again and use the sense of being full as an alarm to stop eating immediately. It’s a matter of will power. I have will and the power so I should see a change.
  • Shake up my exercise regime. I’ve noticed that I started dropping running sessions if I had early starts for work (I like to run early in the morning,, 6.30/7.00am) but this sometimes mean I miss 2 or 3 run sessions in a row – very bad. I’m going to try making myself run at different times in the day, both to get my body used to the practice and to eliminate early starts for work an excuse to skip running. I’m also going to start using jump rope and exercises for my core to tone and build stamina.
  • I’m going to increase my running distance. For a couple of months now I’ve been running 3-5 kilometres 3 times a week. Time to start progressing to regular 5-10K runs, I think. Should be fun and interesting. I do enjoy running. If anyone has ideas of how to make some great running playlists (particularly how to manipulate tracks to make them of similar beat and tempo) I’d appreciate you getting in touch to tell me how!
  • I have increased swimming to three times a week and may also start to swim on Sundays as an extra push to get fit and prepared for the Henley Mile swim in July.

The changes I’ve listed should help get me off the plateau I’m on and back to making progress in terms of weight loss, better nutrition and improved fitness all of which will help me in running for my life.

Well, that’s about it for this post. Please do post comments or suggestions for how I can improve on running for my life!