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Plateaus in Sports Performance

We hear a lot about athletes smashing goals and constantly improving, but a very real part of every athlete's journey is a plateau. Whether you feel you’ve hit a plateau in your general fitness, or whilst you’re working towards a specific goal, it’s important to know that it’s a very normal part of everyone’s fitness journey. It’s also just as important to know that it won’t last forever.

What is a Plateau?

A plateau in sports performance is when you feel as though your performance and/or improvement has stagnated compared to previously. In general, a definition of a plateau in relation to athletes is when an athlete is unable to increase the intensity of their training at the same rate that they have been, or they possibly may even be unable to increase it at all.

What Might Cause a Plateau?

There are a wide range of things that could cause an athlete to feel as though they are plateauing. Your diet and nutrition, hydration, whether you’re getting enough sleep and your enjoyment of the sport itself can all impact this. Another cause that many people tend to gloss over is that as you continue to improve in your sport, the level of activity becomes harder, so of course, it will take more time to learn new things.

For example, think of a gymnast - perhaps they picked up the tricks in lower levels very quickly and easily, but feel as though they’ve stagnated as they work towards the most advanced tricks. It’s going to take you longer to build the strength and body awareness to do a double backflip than it is a cartwheel. This applies to any and every sport - from casual gym goers to elite athletes, you cannot expect yourself to pick up the difficult exercises or tricks as easily as you might have picked up the basics.

How to Best Work Through a Plateau

Of course, what will work to help you through a plateau will vary from person to person, but here are a few tips from us that might be worth giving a try -

  1. Rest - it can be easy to try to push yourself harder when you’re struggling to reach a goal, but this will most likely hinder you than help. Take an extra few days to allow your body to recover - stretch, take a yoga class, or book in for a float or compression session and take it easy.

  2. Remember to look at the big picture - in just about any sport, you’re asking your body to do a lot. Be proud of how far you’ve come.

  3. Take a look at your diet and rest - make sure you’re eating and drinking enough to support your training load, and ensure you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night.

Trying to push through a plateau is definitely not easy - you might feel a lot of frustration, but you’ll definitely come out stronger on the other side.

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