You have been working out consistently and have finally made exercise a daily habit. But lately, you’ve hit a plateau and your motivation to get fit has declined. You’re not progressing in your fitness journey and the thought of working out seems monotonous and unexciting. If you can relate to any of these sentiments, you may be in a workout rut. The key to pushing through a fitness funk could be just making a few minor changes to your routine. Here are seven tips on how to get out of your workout rut.
1) Revamp or create a music playlist.
Today, we are exposed to music more than ever before. From television to grocery stores, to having direct access to any song on at the touch of a button on our mobile devices, music influences our brain activity many various ways. Music also has the potential to make your workouts more effective, especially when you intentionally select high energy or high tempo songs for your playlist. In 2007, the USA Track & Field essentially banned headphones and portable audio players citing “to prevent runners from having a competitive edge.”
Some studies have shown certain types of music can possibly increase effort, keep you on pace, motivate you and elevate your mood. One study performed on 50 young adults showed an increase in total duration of exercise when subjected to fast and loud music (Thakare, Mehrotra, & Singh, 2017). Music can also possibly distract us from feeling fatigued during a taxing workout session. Our brains receive signals from our bodies to decrease intensity or end an exercise entirely after our body has been exceedingly stressed from physical activity. Music has the ability to postpone that feeling of fatigue. Lyrical content of music can also inspire you to alter your state of mind and have a deep effect on your emotional state. There is a robust selection of online content available to help you get some inspiration and new ideas for playlists that will encourage you to step out of that workout rut!
2) Get a workout buddy.
Having a friend or family member along with you on your journey not only allows you to be mutually accountable it also creates an environment of support for times you find yourself in a workout rut. It’s helpful to choose someone close to you who is interested in reaching similar fitness goals. Be open and honest about any fears, failures or frustrations during your journey and share your documented progress with your accountability partner. In this way they can lend support and motivation to help keep you on track to accomplishing your goals. Select a partner who is optimistic, dedicated, and dependable and possesses similar fitness goals as yours.
3) Hire a trainer.
If your budget allows, you may opt to hire a trained professional to educate you on fine tuning your workout routine. Trainers are educated on how to execute exercises properly and are knowledgeable on how to select which specific exercise could help you achieve your fitness goals. Working with a trainer can also help reduce your risk for injury by teaching you proper form and technique. Before hiring a trainer, ensure they have proper certification from reputable organizations such as the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), American Council on Exercise (ACE), or National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) to name a few. Ask to see results of previous clients to ensure you are selecting someone with experience on producing similar results that you desire. If you have any injuries or medical conditions, your trainer should have the knowledge and skills to make proper adjustments to your training.
4) Try a full body workout instead of splits (or vice versa).
If your workout routine normally consists of training splits, switch to full body workouts. Full body workouts offer a lower time commitment throughout the week since they can be performed over the course of just 2-3 days per week. Full body workouts also allow for variation of workout plans which not only decreases boredom, but keeps your body guessing since you will be altering your workout frequently.
Likewise, moving from a full body workout to a training split can challenge your body by training each muscle group at a higher intensity. The purpose of this type of training is to divide training sessions into different muscle groups, focusing on one group at a time each session. Splits can also add variation to your workouts if you typically perform full body exercises. Alternating resistance workouts and aerobic workouts may be ideal for allowing complete recovery for major muscle groups.
5) Go outdoors for a change.
Taking your workouts outdoors provides a change in scenery and challenges you to find new ways to achieve your fitness goals. Outdoor workouts are often met with various types of terrain, which can make your workouts more intense and challenging. When your body is exposed to varying surfaces, it has to work to adapt to these changes while enhancing your strength. You can also make your outdoor workout a family affair by taking the family on a neighborhood hike or the park and incorporate activities.
Ditch the treadmills and elliptical, and invest in some good walking or running shoes. If spin class workouts get too mundane, trying heading out on an actual bicycle. Although you won’t have access to free weights and cable machines, portable equipment such a jump rope or resistance bands offer resistance for building muscle. Incorporate body weight exercises like jump squats, pushups and walking lunges. Doing exercises on playground equipment, such as tricep dips on a bench, or pull-ups on the monkey bars, can help strengthen your upper body.
6) Create a workout challenge.
Creating a personal challenge provides direction, variety and a little competition to inspire individuals to work out. Find someone who is more advanced than you and train with them to get to where you want to be. Let’s be honest, if your workout has become easy over time, you are no longer challenging yourself. Or consider connecting with a group at work, with friends, or online to create a group challenge.
Fitness challenges can range from a simple walking competition where contestants win prizes for reaching a number of steps each week, to a weight loss challenge where the participant who loses the highest percentage of body fat wins a grand prize. Even if you are not a competitive person by nature, incentives are a great way to help keep your eye on the prize, and will most likely inspire you to keep pushing beyond your limits.
7) Purchase new workout clothes.
Spruce up your workout wardrobe with new some new gear. When you look good, you feel good, and may be more inclined to rise out of your work out rut and strut your new fitness apparel. Your workout apparel should be comfortable, well fitted and flexible. You do not have to spend much cash on your workout wardrobe. Choose performance fabrics specifically engineered to help keep you dry during physical activity by wicking sweat away from the skin. These fabrics are typically synthetic fibers like polypropylene and are breathable fabrics to keep your body cool. Many natural fabrics like 100% cotton absorb moisture easily, leaving your clothes feeling sweaty and heavy.
Wear workout clothing suitable for your activities. Loose fitting pants for running, Pilates, yoga, or biking may hinder you from performing optimally. Conversely, workout clothing should be unrestricted, well-ventilated and allow you to move freely. If you exercise outdoors at night, wear bright clothing or pieces with reflective strips for safety measure. Layers can be worn in cooler climates and easily removed as your body temperature increases during your activity.
What strategies work for you when you need to get out of a workout rut?
Thakare, A. E., Mehrotra, R., & Singh, A. (2017). Effect of music tempo on exercise performance and heart rate among young adults. International Journal of Physiology, Pathophysiology and Pharmacology, 9(2), 35–39.