How to get out of a workout rut

Whether you’re bored, have lost motivation or (gasp!) stopped seeing them gains, there are ways to inject new life into your exercise routine.

WE GET IT, the end of the year is an awkward time to keep up with your workout routine. You’re tired (it’s been a long year). You’re demotivated (beachside cocktails sound waaaaaay more appealing, right?) You’ve got a million things going on (family braais, end-of-year functions, holiday shopping)…

But if you find that you’d rather be doing anything else besides working out, you may just need a routine overhaul. Here are the top rut-busting workout strategies to avoid having to start your fitness goals from square one come the new year (along with the rest of the world!).

1. Get a workout buddy

Ever heard of the Köhler motivation-gain effect? In the 1920s, German industrial psychologist Otto Köhler discovered that exercising in a group not only upped an individual’s motivation to exercise, but also increased their maximum output. And countless studies since have backed his findings. Knowing that others are depending on you, as well as not wanting to be the weakest in the group, boosts your performance and motivation to go harder for longer.

Whether it’s a friend, partner or new friend you met at the gym, set a goal together and help each other achieve it. You’ll see how much easier it is to get off the couch and head to the gym when you know someone is there waiting for you.

2. Set goals. Smash them.

They say that if your goals don’t scare you, they’re not big enough. It’s so easy to lose focus if you don’t have a ‘why’. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Whether it’s to lose weight or get stronger, you need a concrete plan to keep you on track.

If you are a casual runner, why not enter a race? Cross-trainers: Get that first muscle-up or 100 kg snatch. Triathletes: Test yourself in an IRONMAN event. Whatever your exercise of choice, there’s a big goal to reach in it.

Set yours and determine what you need to do to get there, such as perfecting your pull-ups or putting in extra hours in the swimming pool. Having an end goal to work towards will motivate you to get out there and work!

3. Track your activity

Whether it’s a fancy new sports watch or a simple log in a notebook, measuring your progress is a great way to stay motivated and help make exercise a priority. Let’s say, for example, you run 5 km in 40 minutes, and you have to walk for most of that time. Record those stats, as well as how you felt – and keep doing so every time you run.

In a few months’ time, you can look back and see that you’ve shaved 15 minutes off your time and can now manage the whole way without stopping. Seeing your efforts pay off, no matter how slow the progress, will be inspiration enough to keep going.

4. Try something new

Boredom is a certain motivation killer. Treadmill, circuit weights, repeat. Day in and day out. What a snooze-fest, right? No wonder you’re in a rut… Let your cycling buddy take you on a scenic tour of your city, get your heart rate up like never before with your CrossFit-crazy co-worker, or get your Zen on with a yogi. There’s so much out there – you have no excuse to let boredom get in the way of your fitness goals.

5. Go harder

Speaking of boredom: Guess what? Your body doesn’t like doing the same old thing every day either. If you find you’ve stopped making gains or losing weight, it’s a sure sign that you’re in need of a new challenge. Running the same route every day? Lifting the same weights? Of course your body isn’t going to change! There’s nothing more discouraging than putting in the work but not seeing the results you want.

Instead of throwing in the sweat towel, up your game! Stick an extra 5 kg on your barbell, or push yourself to sprint up that hill you usually avoid. It will be difficult to begin with but, importantly, your body will get the shock it craves, and you’ll get a huge boost of motivation when you see that you actually. Can. Do. It.

6. Get a personal trainer

Many people start off a workout routine with gusto, but find their enthusiasm fizzles after a while. Why? Well, many of us don’t really know what we’re doing, do we? Instead of fumbling around on your own, unsure of what to do next, enlist the help of a trained fitness professional who will take out all the guesswork by telling you exactly what to do to reach your goals – and provide the push you need. (Hint: don’t believe them when they say, ‘Just one more rep!’)

7. Make exercise fun again

One of the most dangerous exercise ruts is seeing it as a chore. Training so you don’t get fat? That’s not what it’s about. Exercise is about living a healthy life, not punishing yourself for what you ate. Put the fun and joy back into being active: Play Frisbee in the park, kick a ball around with friends, run on the beach and splash in the waves. Being ‘fit’ doesn’t mean fitting into a pair of skinny jeans, but rather using your body for what it was made to do – move!

What’s more motivating than new workout clothes and accessories? If you buy them, you got to show them off, right!

Originally published in FitLife December 2018 issue.

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