You're in your groove at the gym, know what you're doing and knock out a total body workout in an hour. For the first few months you saw the benefits, lost weight, toned up and felt great.
But something's gone wrong… You're still working as hard, but nothing's happening.
The last few pounds won't go, no more toning's happening and you don't feel any fitter than you did last month. Welcome to the Fitness plateau. Usually accompanied by stubborn areas that just won't shift or tone.
But there is something you can do about it. Nutracheck Personal Trainer Kelly Marshall explained to us why we've stopped seeing the benefit of our workout. And how we can turn it back on again. Along with our bum. Yeah, you read that right.
"The body doesn't see fat as negative," Kelly tells us. "It's useful for energy, it doesn't really want to give it away. It's saved it for later."
And it's not just that the body wants to hang onto fat. It's also that once it has made fat stores, they never really go away. We get fat because fat cells get full and split, becoming two, and taking up more room. Even when we lose weight, the fat stores are still there and can become filled up again, which is why you notice yourself putting weight on in the same place.
"There's growing evidence that children who get fat when they're young struggle more with weight and obesity throughout their lives," Kelly says. "And it's because they created these fat stores at such a young age."
[10 medicine ball exercises to tone and shape]
Slimming down difficult areas
Because of our modern, sedentary lifestyles, many of our muscle groups are inactive for long periods during the day – 'switched off', if you will.
"When you're sitting, no muscles are really working. They're not burning anything at all and are happy to just sit there storing fat.
"And because we're not used to using them, it's hard to turn those muscles back on again. Even if you think you're working them, you may not really be. The number of people I see doing squats without really using their butt muscles!"
Kelly explains that ultimately the body is in control with which areas it wants to slim. It will take fat from where it wants, which is why you often see the difference most quickly on your face, and other areas where it's not serving another purpose (such as keeping you warm or protecting your organs).
But if you do have key areas you want to sort out (and let's face it, who doesn't?), there are tricks you can do to make sure your body is working more effectively.
"By targeting an area, we switch all the muscles back on, make it more efficient, improve its circulation and drainage and reactivate the neural pathways that force the muscles to work properly.
"This retraining is often the key to getting the areas back to how you want."
Three exercises to turn your muscles back on
Beating the plateau
There's no other way of saying this but to get over the plateau, you have to work harder. Your body may have struggled with your workout a few weeks or months ago but it soon becomes accustomed to you asking it to work that hard. So you need to step it up and mix it up.
Exercises with added oomph include:
Beefing up your planks. Try side planks, lift your knee to your elbow during a front plank and repeat for your full set. Or try lifting yourself up onto your hands and then going back onto your elbows during the set
Try supersets. Do 12 reps of arm weights or use a machine in the gym, then immediately follow is by a set of squats. By mixing your arm and leg exercises without a break you're forcing your body to work harder
HIIT. Intersperse your weight with a short burst of aerobic exercise on the cross trainer or running machine. Push yourself as hard as you can for three minutes, then go back to weights.
These little tweaks will optimise your muscles and you should see your results improving again. And when they do, step it up. Phew.
Kelly Marshall is the fitness expert for Nutracheck.co.uk – the UK’s leading calorie counter and food diary website and App for weight loss, where you can try a free trial or download the Nutracheck App.