Regular routines can be a good thing. There’s the get-up-and-out-the-door rush to work on time, and, hopefully, your pre-sleep routine to get maximum shuteye. But sometimes a routine can backfire on you, and that’s true when it comes to your workout.
"Doing the same moves at the same time and looking at the same walls at the gym can have a negative effect on your fitness goals," says Garson Grant, master trainer at Chelsea Piers in New York City. If any of these 10 situations sound familiar, it’s time to shake up your gym sessions.
You’re Not Seeing Results
When you first start a routine, you tend to score quick fitness gains. Yet
after a couple of months, you might find yourself spinning your wheels. “Working out puts stress on the body, and in time, your body learns to adapt — so you don’t necessarily make progress,” says Grant. Busting out of a plateau doesn’t mean a major overhaul. Small tweaks, such as changing the number of sets or upping your pace, can accelerate your progress.
The word rep comes from repetition, and doing the same routine in the same order over and over is bound to be an excitement suck. Make sure your program has lots of variety: lifts, interval training, bodyweight exercises, anything to mix it up, explains Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, and author of Turbulence Training. Even taking your workout outdoors can crank your mojo, giving you something more inspiring to look at than the treadmill in front of yours or all the other sweaty guys in the weight room.
You’re Racking Up Injuries
Chronic muscle strains and sprains often stem from repetitive stress injuries. “You’re likely doing the same moves without any variation, overworking those muscles and never giving them the chance to heal,” says Grant. Start diversifying your routine just enough so you work the muscles differently, or alternate bodyweight exercises that don’t rely on the same muscle groups the exact same way.
You’re Completely Exhausted Afterward
“It’s one thing for your workout to make you a little tired, but you shouldn’t be drained of energy,” says Mike Fantigrassi, MS, NASM-CPT master instructor and director of professional services at the National Academy of Sports Medicine in Chandler, Arizona. Killer fatigue is a clue that you need to eat more, get more rest, or back off on the intensity of your program. “A workout doesn’t need to crush you each time to be effective,” says Fantigrassi.
It Feels Like Work
True, it’s called a workout for a reason. But if your routine feels like drudgery and you approach your sessions like prisoner sentenced to splitting rocks, then it’s time to step back and figure out a way to make it feel more fun, or at least, turn it into more of a challenge, says Luke Guanzon, CSCS, strength and conditioning specialist at Life Time Athletic in Westchester, New York.
You Can’t Find the Time
Maybe you’re putting in more hours at the office. Or crappy winter weather has you postponing your regular run or ride. Whatever the reason, if outside forces are preventing you from getting your sweat on, it’s time to figure out a routine that works with your life right now — like something you can do at home or a shorter, more intense version of your current workout. “A lot of people get hung up on the ideal workout, and if they can’t do everything they planned to do, they skip it,” says
Fantigrassi. “But the best program is one you can consistently do.”
Your Joints Feel Pounded
If your joints ache after you’ve left the gym, your workout might be totally fine — but you’re probably not warming up the right way (or you’re impatiently skipping the warm up completely). Start with 3-5 minutes of light cardio, like a jog, or do a bodyweight circuit of 3-4 basic moves, aiming for 10-15 reps each, suggests Ballantyne. A few minutes with a foam roller before and after your routine will also get proper blood flow going for a warm-up, says Guanzon.
Your Goals Have Changed
When you first started working out, maybe the plan was to shed some weight or improve your definition. Now, you’re focused on building endurance to tackle an upcoming Ironman. When your fitness goals change, your workout needs to change along with it, or you won’t get the results you’re after, says Ballantyne.
You Work Out on Autopilot
The best fitness program is one that puts you in the zone — not one that lets you languish in your comfort zone. When there’s no sense of challenge and you’re going through the motions without actually pushing your limits, you might maintain your fitness level, but you won’t improve anything, says Ballantyne. Even if you really look forward to your gym time, you need to be engaged to get the benefits.
You’re Losing Strength
This happens a lot with lifting, says Ballantyne, because you’re not giving your muscles time to recover and grow. “If you’re overtraining a body part, you can end up getting weaker,” he says. It all comes down to better program design. Schedule an easy-lifting day or recovery day on the day before a heavy-lifting day, suggests Ballantyne. Another tactic: change the timing between moves. Says Guanzon: “Holding a move for a longer period of time or cutting the seconds or minutes of your rest periods between moves can keep your muscles and strength from regressing.”
By Esther Crain