2021 has been an unusual year.
I've had a full calendar year of not going in to an office. I've experienced some loss. I've had a lot on my plate, but also no time constraints. I've done a Burpee Challenge (2,021 burpees in 7 days to start the New Year), a 1,000 Miles Challenge in 92 days, and a 24 Hour Ultra, along with the usual workout schedule and random races. I'm learning to navigate this writing thing, and planning for training in a new career. Add in some new family issues and a minor health issue (and a global pandemic!), and maybe it's no wonder I've been in a plateau.
Every aspect of fitness and running was new and exciting when I started. When you haven't taken care of yourself for a number of years, any positive changes you make to diet or movement will yield results. You get to see a lot of progress in the beginning, and thank goodness for that. Progress is an effective hook. My first weight and performance plateau, then, was devastating. You think the whole thing is over--that not only will there be no more progress, but it will all go back to how it was before you ever started. I was desparate and didn't trust myself nor did I understand the process: that plateaus are inevitable. Your body might need a breather to absorb everything you've been doing. Just as likely, your mind and spirit may need that, as well. Plateaus can also be an indicator that you've gotten complacent, and it's time to dig a little deeper or push a little further. I've experienced both kinds. The bottom line is there are gifts and messages in plateaus, and we need them. And, like it or not, plateaus are part of life--fitness and otherwise.
It sounds like I've got it figured out, but don't let me fool you. In theory, I get it. In practice, well, that's a little harder to do. I have been in yet another weight plateau for a solid year now, and I haven't always been very gracious about it. I gained some weight during 2020, and I hung on to it during 2021. I've had meltdowns and frustration and resignation and moments of renewed determination all year long. I kind of put myself into this plateau, and then I kind of got stuck. Instead of taking any moments to reflect I've just been frantically trying to find the exit, when it finally occurred to me last week that maybe I should just stop and take in the view. It occurred to me that there is something to learn and see from here. It occurred to me that it's easier to rest here. And it finally dawned on me that this place is a part of life, a part of living, a part of not being static, but dynamic--meaning you don't get to plateau if you're not moving and climbing and trying in the first place. It serves an important purpose, even though plateaus are almost never the showy part of your story like results are. And maybe it's because they aren't the showy part that makes their purpose so important.
"I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but I am saying it's going to be worth it" is a quote I've come across many times in the fitness world. And that applies in spades to the plateaus in our lives. When I stopped throwing punches and instead asked "Why have I been in this place for so long?", I miraculously started to get some traction. But more than that, I started to appreciate, really appreciate, where I've come from--how far I've come. And I started to understand that these plateaus aren't just some kind of stagnant holding place until I start seeing progress again, there are actually all kinds of things, necessary things, happening in this space. And I don't want to miss it because I'm looking behind me or trying to see what's ahead. The new goal, the next time I find myself in a plateau--with running, with weight, with writing, with anything--is to say, Oh, I know this place, and then stop and take a breath and look around. Plateaus are like recovery runs, and the purpose is to slow my heart rate down and give myself the opportunity to absorb my fitness, absorb my life, regroup, loosen up, and prepare for the next push, the next climb, the next opportunity.
Plateaus are inevitable. Plateaus can be trying. They can sneak up on you, and they can seemingly go on forever. But I like this new angle, that plateaus are essential, i.e.: absolutely necessary. If that's the case, then I don't want to just endure them or tolerate them. When they show up, I want the wisdom and maturity to recognize that this "holding pattern" is full of rest and information, and I want to meet it with curiosity. And maybe even learn to love them. (Maybe)