How to stay motivated once you reach a plateau and stop improving?
December 25, 2017 1:47 PM   Subscribe

I've noticed that I really enjoy the feelings that come with growth and improvement, but don't get nearly the same satisfaction from just maintaining my level. I feel like I lose my sense of purpose and positive feedback if I stop progressing. Is there some mental trick I can use to stay motivated to maintain my fitness level even if, for example, I'm not losing ever more body weight each week or running an even faster mile pace on a treadmill with each workout?
posted by Gosha_Dog to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
The fact that you're not seeing quick workout-to-workout gains is actually a sign of improvement. As you get more and more advanced with any fitness pursuit you'll generally hit stages where you need to target weekly improvements and then eventually monthly ones. And you'll need to program your workouts with progressively more care to get those gains. If you're running, I would start looking for intermediate running plans that aim for weekly improvements, and then track those improvements over time.
posted by Gymnopedist at 1:56 PM on December 25, 2017

Sorry, misread that key word "maintain." But you could probably continue to target modest improvements with the same time commitments, and that might help with motivation.
posted by Gymnopedist at 1:58 PM on December 25, 2017

You could set a goal to work out a certain number of minutes a week or days a year.
posted by Kriesa at 2:16 PM on December 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Agree with Kriesa. You can set all kinds of goals as to what you *do* and change them frequently enough to avoid boredom.

I also hate boredom - haven't hacked fitness yet but with hobbies, when I get bored with one I switch to another. When I get back to hobby A in a year or so I'll bring something different to it because of what I've learned from hobbies B, C and D. From what I read about people who are serious about fitness, they seem to do something similar and try something new every so often - kettlebells, yoga, ballet, swimming, strength training, boxing, martial arts, etc.
posted by bunderful at 2:37 PM on December 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think this is sport-dependent. Some sports, like swimming or running, you can set goals by signing up for competitions. Do a longer race (10k, marathon), a new type (open water! Triathlon! Relay!) or a new place (next town over, out of state, international). That way even if you aren’t going faster, you are doing something that feels new.

For terrain-based sports, I think this is easier. Personally these days I mostly rock climb, but I think you can get the same result with skiing, surfing, mountain biking, probably parkour, etc. Anything where you can get newness not just by doing something harder, but by doing something different at the same level. I’ve been climbing for ten years, and I am pretty much not going to get any better. I’m not even going to be as good as I once was (age and limited practice time). But I can still get a feeling of progress by getting farther on a given climb, doing it more cleanly, etc. Even if I have to drop down to easier stuff, I can still do new things at that level by going to new terrain (or, when the gym resets its terrain). Plateauing is still frustrating, but it doesn’t take out all my love of the activity.

Ah, there is another way to get some newness- join a team or meetup group for your sport. Then the experience of being with other people can provide you some joy. For example, I am never going to get better as a climber myself- but I can watch friends new to the sport improve rapidly and get some vicarious joy out of that.
posted by nat at 3:10 PM on December 25, 2017

Can you teach or volunteer? Yes. You can volunteer. Run with kids. Walk laps with older folks. Jog with Special Olympians. Lead a youth group at your local Y or JCC. Run with high energy shelter dogs. Lead an all day beach or park cleanup in your community.

There are so many ways to incorporate physical fitness into ‘everyday’ life and you can make your goals things like weekly dog miles or kids attending your group/returning to your group or bags of trash collected.
posted by bilabial at 4:04 PM on December 25, 2017

what bunderful said about mixing it up.

In my case, if asked what I do primarily I would probably answer martial arts. But I actually spend more time lifting weights and doing yoga, but in my conception both of those are supportive of the martial arts in terms of strength, flexibility, balance, centredness and so on.

You didn't give much detail about your workouts, but from the sounds of it you're maybe just running on a treadmill, so I'll continue on that assumption.

You could add other things to support your running. For example, our ancestors' evolutionary advantage was our butts, and how they (and a great ability to sweat) allowed us to hunt large animals simply by persisting until they tired out and collapsed.

So introduce some weightlifting, perhaps. Squats, deadlifts, various kettlebell exercises will all strengthen your butt and improve your running. And you will get a kick out of seeing your progress in that area, and it's a whole new area to learn about and tweak.

On a different tip, why not make it social? People typically are more motivated to train if it's a social thing. Maybe there's a club in your area that meets to run around parks or something?
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:22 PM on December 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

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