THERE WILL COME a time in your weight-loss journey when you simply hit a wall, that unpleasant and discouraging plateau. Nearly every fitness enthusiast from beginner to advanced will face this challenge.

Has your progress stalled despite your faithful commitment to working out and eating right? If not, be assured: At some point it will.

When you hit a plateau, it seems as if nothing you do will make the scales budge. This is a critical time for a person trying to lose weight, and many people throw in the towel at this point instead of pressing on.

I know I have felt the frustration of a plateau. But if you simply hang in there and persist, you can overcome this obstacle.

Plateaus are a natural part of the weight-loss process. And although it's human nature to seek the path of least resistance, that's also the path with fewer results.

If you've hit a plateau, here are five ways to bust out of it.

Set a goal. Once you've set your goal, quantify it with numbers. Otherwise, it's just wishful thinking, not goal-setting. For example, if weight loss is your goal, attach a number to it - 20 pounds, for example - and figure out how long it will take you to shed those pounds in a safe, healthy manner. Then track your progress along the way. If strength training is your goal, performing 10-20 push-ups consecutively is a way to quantify it.

Without attaching a number to your goal, you are just wishing for results. A wish requires no action on your part, but a plan does.

Change is the only constant. Be sure to change your exercise routine regularly. Your body adjusts to whatever program you do, making it less effective as time goes on. If you know the choreography better than the aerobics teacher, then it's time to change. Many people take comfort in doing the same class over and over, but once you're comfortable, it's time to change.

One way to spice up your routine is with interval training. For example, instead of just walking at the same 3.5 mph speed, try 3 minutes of walking, followed by 1 minute of jogging and 30 seconds of running. Do that combination for 30 or 45 minutes. That will give your routine a much-needed boost.

A good rule of thumb is to switch your routine every four to six weeks.

Exercise effectively. Are you exercising regularly, let's say four to five times a week for an hour, but still not getting results? If so, then you probably aren't exercising efficiently.

It's not enough to just go through the motions. You have to move correctly; otherwise, you're wasting your precious time. Trust me, I've been in the gym for decades, seeing some of the same folks never improve their fitness level or their physiques.

That's either because the person is exercising incorrectly or - more likely - using minimum effort.

Minimum effort nets minimum return. And the opposite is true, too. So maximize your effort. Is it time to increase the speed, length or intensity of your training program? Look at your routine and decide which training variables you need to change.

Overeating. Many people mistakenly think that working out is a license to eat not only whatever they want, but also as much as they want. Nothing could be further from the truth. With or without exercise, if you consume more calories than you burn each day, you will gain weight. If weight loss is one of your goals, then you'll need to pay close attention to your calorie intake and to your workouts.

R&R. Believe it or not, rest and relaxation are as important as training. Recovery is essential to your health and overall fitness. So if you've been burning the midnight oil, remember to get enough sleep.

Kimberly's Body After Baby Week 9

It is more likely than not that you will encounter a few challenges along your "body after baby" journey. For those challenging days, I keep a copy of Calvin Coolidge's "Persistence" on the fridge.

PERSISTENCE

Nothing in the world can take the place

of persistence.

Talent will not;

Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.

Genius will not;

Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.

Education will not;

The world is full of educated derelicts.

Persistence and determination alone are

omnipotent.

Kimberly Garrison is a certified personal trainer and owner of One on One Ultimate Fitness in Philadelphia (www.1on1ultimatefitness.com). Email her at

kimberly@1on1ultimatefitness.com. Her column appears each Thursday in Yo!