It Might Be Time to Detox Your Gym Routine
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Feel like your fittest-body-ever mission has hit a road block? It might be time for a detox—and we don't mean one with green juices. Part of our spring cleaning detox series is, of course, about detoxing your #gymlife.
We've dished about detoxing your digital life, the mountain of stuff hiding in your apartment, and all the relationships in your social sphere. But it's time to re-evaluate your fitness game. Let's face it: Your New Year's resolution excitement has definitely disappeared by now, the warm weather might have you feeling antsy in the gym, or your body might just be burnt out with the type of training you're doing.
Ask yourself these five questions to decide if your current workout routine needs to be nixed, needs an adjustment, or if you just need to add a little something new to the rotation. After all, summer is coming—so it's time to turn up the heat at your next sweat sesh.
Does It "Hurt So Good," or Just Hurt?
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If you're training like a beast, you might encounter some aches and pains. But there's a difference between muscles that are working hard to recover, and muscles that are working too hard. Delayed onset muscle soreness (AKA DOMS) is common after resistance training, but there are signs that mean it's more than just sore muscles and could be an injury: if you can point to pain in a super specific spot, if only one side of your body is sore (ex: one knee is killing you but the other is fine), if you're going on five to seven days of "can-barely-walk" pain, and if any increased activity makes the pain worse. If any of these sound familiar, you need to take a break, stat.
Are You Coasting Through Instead of Challenging Yourself?
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If it's been weeks (or months) since you last rolled out of bed feeling stiff, it may be a sign that your muscles have adapted to the workout you're doing, meaning it's time to either switch it up or make it more intense. It's good to be a little sore, says Brian Sutton, a personal trainer who specializes in female sports performance. Sutton suggests increasing the weight, sets, or reps, varying the pace or order of the moves, or throwing in some new ones to work different muscles. Even just a little tweak—using 17.5-pound dumbbells instead of 15-pound ones, can be enough to actually challenge your muscles and give the results you're looking for.
Are You Overdoing It?
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ODing on the gym doesn't manifest as sore muscles. If any of these red flags sound familiar, it could be a sign that your body needs a break: your motivation suddenly ghosts, you can't sleep, your heart rate (even at rest) seems out of whack, or you feel physically heavy or sluggish. (If you think you're truly addicted, there's hope. Read How One Woman Overcame Her Exercise Addiction.)
Rest days are important for your brain, your body, and your mood, so make sure you're taking them as needed, according to Jay Cardiello, a personal trainer and fitness expert. That means skipping the gym entirely if you've been going really hard, and doing only active recovery (like yoga or a walk) if you've been sticking to lower or moderate intensity training.
Have You Stopped Seeing Progress?
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If you were dropping pounds or seeing new muscle growth for months but have recently been feeling stagnant, it might be time to switch up your workout. Workouts shouldn't be mindless or make you feel like you're just going through the motions. If your body is no longer changing, try adding new exercises to your routine, or swap your usual workout for something totally new and different. If you're getting bored lifting weights, add some intense cardio. If you usually stick to cardio, add some weight training to shape some new muscle curves.
Or Are You Just Bored AF?
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If you once looked forward to your daily sweat sesh but are starting to dread it, the best thing can be just to add something new. Try these tips for breaking out of a workout rut. But before you totally flip your routine, keep these guidelines from Cardiello in mind for making the transition: Don't be afraid to ask for help when you're doing something new, and remember that even if you're great at one workout, you might need to start from step one with a different program. And don't challenge yourself so much that you're putting yourself at risk for injury. (Another way to beat workout boredom? Just add friends.)