20 Ways to Bust Out of Your Workout Rut
Take Your Workout Outside
If you're feeling uninspired with your go-to gym routine, there's perhaps no better solution than taking your workout outdoors. One recent study showed that getting your sweat on outside can make you feel more energized, happier, and less tired than doing the same workout in the gym. In addition to the mood boost and lower stress levels you'll reap from getting in touch with Mother Nature, you'll also add challenges that can boost your results—going for a run on uneven terrain engages more muscles and burns more calories than hitting the treadmill.
Switch Up Your Schedule
While the best time of day to work out is the time you'll actually do it, switching up your workout schedule could be an easy way to boost your energy level during your regular routine. For instance, if you have to fit your workout in at the crack of dawn to make it happen (science does
show morning workouts have their benefits), try scheduling just one day a week when you can exercise in the evening or on your lunch break instead. You may find yourself with more energy, enthusiasm, and stamina to get more out of your usual workout.
Work Out with Your Eyes Shut
This may sound strange, but closing your eyes during some of your strength moves can help you zero in on your form and focus on contracting the targeted muscle—and it may make your movements more controlled and precise. Even a simple balance exercise (such as standing on one leg) can be made more challenging simply by closing your eyes. (Warning: You may get strange looks from fellow gym-goers.)
Swap Workouts With a Friend
One of the best ways to bust out of your workout rut is to ditch your go-to routine and try something entirely new, even if it scares you. You'll not only work your muscles in a whole new way and up your overall fitness level, but stepping outside of your workout comfort zone (whether it's by trying weightlifting or by taking a yoga class for the first time) also helps make the time fly by *and* boosts your confidence, to name just a few of the benefits of trying new things. In fact, we're such big fans at Shape that our editors decided to commit to something new and swap workouts with each other for a month. Try doing the same with your S.O. or BFF (make it even more fun and do the workouts together!) and you'll reap major mind and body benefits.
Reverse Your Running Route
We've established that exercising outdoors is a great way to keep your cardio interesting, but you may be stalling your progress and inviting boredom if you always follow the same path. Some fun ways to switch it up? Run your favorite route in the opposite direction to keep your legs guessing and your mind free from the same old routine, or use an app like MapMyRun to find a new running route near you. (For more tips like these, try our 30-Day #RunforFun Challenge)
Download a Power Playlist
Sure, you probably know from experience that listening to music can help you get through that tough HIIT workout or help you run faster, but science backs it up, too. In fact, research has found that a song's tempo directly relates to the average person's heart rate during exercise—and that putting together the right playlist can boost your performance through every stage of your workout. That's right—music can amp up your motivation before you even start, drive you once you're there, and even speed up your recovery after you've finished. (More on that here, plus four playlists proven to add power to your workouts.)
Here are some general bpm guidelines when it comes to picking the perfect workout playlist: For strength training (done at a circuit pace) stick with 120–130 bpm, for running try 150–175pm, and for cycling try 95–130 bpm.
Prioritize Your Recovery Routine
If you're extremely sore at all times, working out will be miserable, so putting some effort into recovery can make sticking to a workout routine altogether more appealing. Fail to give your muscles enough time to repair themselves, and your progress will eventually plateau or decline. Level up your recovery routine by springing for a tricked out foam roller or adding a supplement like NeoCell to your regular post-workout smoothie for a collagen boost.
Take Basic Moves to the Next Level
Once you've mastered the basic push-up or squat, doing them day in and day out can put you on cruise control. By working in new variations, you'll keep your body and mind challenged and ward off a plateau. Not sure where to start? Liven up your standard plank with these variations in our 31-Day Plank Challenge, or try one of these 16 variations on the standard squat. For a super-quick routine, try this four-minute total-body blast of plank, push-up, and squat variations.
Find a Workout Buddy
Experts say that finding a workout buddy to involve in your health and fitness goals is a huge part of reaching them. Having someone to keep you on track will help you during your low moments—like when you're tempted to press snooze on that early morning workout class or devour an entire pint of ice cream. Don't know where to start? Check out these four ways to choose the best workout buddy for your fitness squad.
Cut Down On Your Gym Time
More isn't always better, especially when it comes to your cardio workout. Tabata training (dubbed the "four-minute fat-burning miracle") is a perfect example. Studies show that just four minutes of this super-high-intensity training is more effective than an hour-long treadmill session—making it the perfect way to mix up your boring steady state cardio routine. The best part is you don't have to be at the gym to do it—try this calorie-blasting Tabata routine you can do at home to build strength and increase your stamina in just minutes with zero equipment.
(Related: The Best Tabata Workout for Beginners)
Buy That New Workout Outfit
Rewarding yourself (in a healthy way) when you hit a milestone is a great way to fend off a fitness slump. One way to do that is by splurging on those cool new sneakers or sports bra you've been eyeing. "New workout gear encourages you to work out more. When you feel good in your workout clothes, you want to go the extra mile," Karena Dawn of the Tone It Up Girls tells us. Beyond the anecdotal evidence, science finds that when you wear that cute workout gear, you're not only more inclined to be active—you'll also feel more confident in your abilities, which can lead to improved focus, motivation, and gains. *Adds leggings to shopping cart*
Revisit Childhood Favorites
If you haven't gone swimming or biking—or jumped on a trampoline—since you were a kid, now might be the time to reconsider. These activities are not only fun, but they happen to be awesome ways to stay in shape. Or consider getting back in touch with a sport that you loved in high school, like running track or ballet. To stay accountable, ask a friend to come along and make it a social outing. (Workouts are the new happy hour, anyway!)
Listen to an Inspiring Podcast
If you haven't delved into the world of podcasts yet, it's time to start. Whether you're looking for training advice, weight-loss tips, or motivation to stick with your goals, there's a podcast for that. Listen to one while you get ready in the morning, on your commute, or during your workouts—and get prepared to feel majorly inspired. Not sure where to start? Check out the best health and fitness podcasts to listen to right now.
Change Up Your Surface
If you always work out on a flat surface, it's time to mix things up! On the treadmill? Add an incline. Doing squats? Stand on a BOSU. Going for a jog? Run through sand or water. You can burn more calories, engage more muscles, and get a more effective training session simply by changing the surface of your workouts.
Join a Fitness Community
In the same way that a workout buddy can lift you up when you're in a workout slump, there is major power in having a "fitness tribe," according to The Biggest Loser trainer Jen Widerstrom (who happens to be leading our 40-Day Goal Crushers Challenge this month!). That's because when you share your goals with others on the same path, you'll feed off each other's motivation and energy—and any hurdles you face won't seem so daunting. Whether you join a local running group, CrossFit gym, or boxing studio, there are plenty of ways to go about building this community—just start with something you're passionate about!
There are also so many fitness communities online you can tap into for those same perks—Kayla Itsines, Anna Victoria, and the Tone It Up girls are just a few of our favorite places to go to for workouts, healthy eating plans, inspiring transformations, and real-talk motivation when we need it most. Or request to join our private #MyPersonalBest Goal Crusher group on Facebook for motivation and support from Jen and the Shape staff!
Book a Sports Massage
If you're feeling low on energy, booking a sports massage is one simple, science-backed way to combat it. That's because—on top of helping you feel less sore and move more freely—sports massages actually boost your circulation and rev up your muscle endurance. In other words, you'll walk out of there feeling like a whole new woman who's ready to beast through her next workout. (Read up on more of the benefits here, plus find out how to DIY a sports massage at home.)
Commit to a 30-Day Challenge
If there's an activity (like yoga, running, or HIIT) you're hoping to finally master, or a body part you've always wanted to sculpt (hello toned arms, butt, and abs!), a 30-day challenge is a great way to motivate yourself to reach those goals. It's the perfect amount of time to establish a new habit and also see results by the end of the month. The community aspect is a great way to stay accountable—it's easier to get through day 16 of burpees when you have someone else who understands your pain! But you can always try out a past challenge all on your own to give you that kick-start you need. Check out all of our 30-day challenges led by top trainers and pick your poison!
Enlist Professional Help
In an age when celebrity trainers are accessible in seconds via their Instagram accounts, it may seem like hiring a personal trainer is no longer necessary. But even if you consider yourself an advanced exerciser, booking one or two sessions with a trainer to discuss your personal goals can go a long way toward helping you take your workout to the next level. (Most gyms offer a free session to all members and may offer discounts if you've been a member for a while, so be sure to ask for any special offers.) Just be specific with the trainer about what you hope to gain from the session(s) in order to maximize your investment.
Incorporate Meditation Into Your Workouts
If you think of meditation as something you do totally separate from your workout routine, you could be missing out on a ton of body benefits. "When you start a workout with meditation, you're able to zero in on the present moment, which allows you to move with intention, so you can give your best effort," says Holly Rilinger, a Nike Master Trainer and creator of LIFTED. Try her Meditation-Meets-HIIT Workout, which incorporates meditation before and during the strength routine. Then try applying the same technique to all of your workouts to help you get in the zone and get more out of every sweat sesh.
Sign Up for a Race
Even if you don't consider yourself a "runner" or a super-competitive person, signing up for your first race might be exactly the challenge you need to pull yourself out a workout rut. We might be slightly biased, but the Shape
Women's Half-Marathon is a great option for first-timers who are looking for an empowering, women-only race. (Related: How Two Trainers Overcame Their Self-Doubt to Run Their First Half Marathon) If a half isn't for you, consider signing up for an obstacle course race—whether it's a 5K or a mud run—for a rewarding and fun challenge that's geared toward your fitness level. On top of helping you check off physical goals, you'll overcome mental challenges that experts say can help you kick ass in other areas of your life, too.
Get In On the Latest Smartwatch Trend
Besides being a stylish way to check the time and stay connected with your text messages, an activity tracker that monitors your daily steps and activity is an investment that will keep you accountable with your health and fitness goals. Opt for one that lets you monitor your heart rate while you work out (good news, most have them built-in these days), which provides extra motivation to push yourself harder to reach your target heart rate, without overdoing it. (More on that here: How to Find—and Train In—Your Personal Heart-Rate Zones)