S-Curves, Paradigm Shifts and Plateaus
I recently read Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. The concept of singularity is that our technological increases have been accelerating at such an exponential rate that they will supercede the natural forces of evolution. He believes that we will reach new epochs where human and technological intelligence become melded into one. Eventually this will lead to a saturation of intelligence throughout the universe non-biological and biological (the Singularity).
However, before we dive too deep into that direction and expose my lack of knowledge of quantum mechanics and physics, I'll revert back to Paradigms Shifts and their graphical representation, the S-Curve. A paradigm is simply a way of thinking or approach towards a problem. The interesting thing you'll notice about paradigms is that at some point in time, you will experience fast results after changing your paradigm (or method), but eventually, the results peter out.
In fitness, we refer refer to the upper portion of our S-Curve (Maturity in the graph above) as a plateau. Plateaus are some of the most frustrating disrupters of motivation and momentum. When you start a cleanse, get into running, or start gaining strength, your results are accelerated and for a time - it appears as if you will simply follow an upward progression indefinitely. But then you run into a wall. This is the point where effort doesn't seem to have an effect. Your fat loss grinds to a halt, your squat seems to almost get weaker, and your running just won't kick into another gear.
This is where understanding the continuum of S-Curves comes in. Instead of trying to simply blast at a plateau, perhaps you need to look at the next S-Curve or Paradigm to hop onto. Trainers will talk about adding more and more variety and "shocking" the body. But perhaps this is simply a way of milking the most out of the Maturity phase.
Instead, if you've been grinding away for a while, unable to progress - this typically happens after 3-4 months of good progression - you need to find the next paradigm. I refer to a continuum of S-Curves because you have to be ready to jump onto the next curve when what you did yesterday no longer serves you.
Next time you are stuck in a plateau, instead of simply trying to hammer away at it or mindlessly throwing new tools into the mix, here's a different approach to help you find the next S-Curve.
1. Look back and think about what specific methods allowed you to progress in the past. These methods are unfortunately less effective now. For example, if you're trying to get extra ripped and lean, a good start was eliminating simplified sugar intake. This works wonders in the beginning, but you're now in need of another method.
2. Examine your current state and see what is limiting further progress. With fat loss, perhaps it has to do with the timing of your starchy carbs, or maybe your protein and fat ratios need tweaking.
3. Understand the next paradigm you are transitioning to. Getting rid of the simple sugars was a great first phase, but now the next phase will be to optimize your macronutrient ratios and get further fat burning throughout the day. The next paradigm may involve intermittent fasting, added slow cardio or even carbohydrate back-loading.
Reaching a plateau means you've successfully used a method or tool to its maturity. This is not a time to get frustrated, but rather an opportunity to learn new methods and tweak your approach.