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Can Taking A Step Back From Training Move You Forwards?

Sometimes to achieve the fitness progression you are looking for you will need to stop and pause, or even go backwards in your training, before you can accelerate ahead again. 

When we start training either from scratch or in a new sport the first few months or even years are exciting and big improvements come quickly, however as we get fitter and more experienced it becomes harder to make big leaps forward. The rate of progression slows down and we may find ourselves stuck on a fitness plateau. This is when it gets tough, you can lose motivation and lose sight of your goals. Without your regular fix of new PB’s training can get frustrating and demoralizing. You keep on putting the work in but you aren’t seeing the results.   

Step back to get a clear view of your obstacles

Image courtesy of HotChillee

A lot of fitness blogs talk about “smashing your way” or “busting through to the next level” but that is as helpful as trying to knock down a wall by banging your head against it. Take a couple of steps back so you can see the obstacle more clearly, look for the way round it and ask the experts; there are plenty of great coaches out there who will be happy to act as a guide to show you the route off your own particular plateau. 

A plateau forces you to try new things, examine your weaknesses and explore different ways to train. When success comes easy you don’t need to address these issues. When you keep seeing improvements and PB’s you might not realise that you are getting those results despite your bad technique, or your poor diet or training plan. But in the end those problems will limit your progression. In order to get off the plateau you need to solve the riddle of what is holding you back and ultimately that knowledge and change in behavior will be the key to making you a faster, stronger athlete. 

Take a look at your goals and break them down to all the different components needed to reach them. You won’t be progressing in all of them at the same speed. The rate of our progression is not linear and will slow down. It’s easy to spot that you are getting fitter when you are improving by large amounts but keeping a diary on the Wattbike Hub  and using tests to measure your fitness regularly is the only way of keeping track on the small details. When you feel like you’re stuck in one area, switch your focus. Often this change of tack is all you need to revitalize your training. 

Technique is a great area to delve into while you are stuck on your plateau. If you are fit but have poor technique it will always be a limiting factor. Trying to go faster or gain watts by physically pushing yourself harder and harder is the “banging your head against a wall” approach. Give your body a break by spending some time looking more closely at your skills.

Go back to your Wattbike and analyze your pedalling, have you slipped into bad habits? If your technique is sloppy you can add on a few watts by some concentrated work in this area and create a stronger platform for your development.

If you are on a plateau right now then it is time to stop fighting it, embrace it. The fitness plateau is a chance to grow and learn as an athlete and when you do find the next step up you will ultimately be stronger for it.


Written by Hannah Reynolds

Hannah is proof that you don’t need to be good at racing to pin on a number, just enthusiastic. She has ridden some of the world’s toughest sportives including the Haute Route Alps, La Marmotte and Megavalanche – the famous downhill mountain bike race.

When she’s not on the bike, Hannah is a freelance writer and journalist and former Editor of Cycling Weekly and Cycling Active. She is co-authour of France en Velo and Bloomsbury publications Fitter, Faster, Further and Get on Your Bike.

Follow Hannah and her cycling adventures over on Twitter @hannahmreynolds and Instagram @hannahmreynolds.

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