In a workout rut? Here’s how to snap out of it—and get your fitness back on track

In a perfect world, you’d feel engaged and motivated in your workout routine 100 percent of the time. But the truth is, we don’t live in a perfect world—and no matter how much you love fitness, at some point you’ll find yourself in a workout rut.

If you’re currently stuck in a workout rut (or you’ve stopped working out altogether!), we’ve got good news for you. With a few small changes, you can kick yourself out of your workouts, find your motivation, and get your fitness back on track. So how, exactly, do you do that?

Start small

If you’ve completely fallen off the exercise wagon, you might be tempted to jump back on. But going from no exercise to lots of exercise can quickly burn you out—and put you right back where you started.

Instead, “start small and simple [when] Getting back into your routine,” says Dr. Matt Tanberg, sports chiropractor, certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), and owner of Body Check Chiropractic and Sports Rehabilitation in Scottsdale, AZ.

For example, let’s say you used to start every morning with a 5k jog around your neighborhood—but now it’s been months since you hit the pavement in your running shoes. Instead of trying to get back to running 3.1 miles, try starting your morning with a 15-minute walk. Then, as you incorporate a daily walking habit, you can gradually increase your active time and pace until you return to your regular running routine.

Switch things up

A rut is literally defined as “a fixed or established manner or way of life, usually dull or unremarkable”. In other words, you get stuck in a rut when you get bored and keep doing the same thing over and over without seeing results.

“If you stick with a particular program or routine for too long, you can easily hit a snag and lose motivation,” says personal trainer and coach Chris Cooper.

If you feel like you’re stuck in a “same old, same old” mentality toward your exercise routine—and that’s making it hard to stay motivated and engaged in fitness—one of the things you can do is change things up.

For example, do you think that what you do is run? Switch things up by hitting up a strength training or boxing class. Are you bored with your gym routine? Challenge yourself with an outdoor workout, such as a hike in the park or a circuit workout. Introduce something new to your fitness routine; Trying new things can make your workouts feel fresh and exciting again—and help you shake that “I’m stuck in a rut” feeling.

Give yourself a goal

Regular exercise is a worthy goal in itself. But if exercise for exercise’s sake doesn’t motivate you to get up, get out, and workout—and you think you’re into fitness because of it—what’s a great way to find the drive to exercise? Give yourself a fitness goal to work towards. “Having goals can be an important factor in motivation,” says certified strength and conditioning expert Corey Van Wyk.

For example, do you love cycling, but find excuses to skip your bike rides lately? Consider signing up for a road race to give yourself something to train for. Or do you think you’re in a slump because you’re bored with a home workout? Set a goal to check out at least one new fitness class a week.

When setting fitness goals, “find something you’re passionate about and that will push you out of your comfort zone,” Van Wyk says. “Doing this will give you clear goals and objectives for your workouts”—which can make it easier to get out of your run and get back into a regular fitness groove.

Find a workout community

When you’re in the middle of a workout, it can be hard to pull yourself out of it. So why not enlist the help of other people? Finding a workout community, by joining a local workout class or enlisting a few friends to work out with you, not only creates external accountability (which can help you stay consistent with your workouts, even when you don’t feel like it) but It can make work feel fun and motivating again. It can help you break out of your routine and feel engaged and excited about your fitness routine.

“Whether virtually or in person, find a group of people who are doing the same thing as you,” says Van Wyk. “It’s amazing how surrounding yourself with people doing the same workout at the same time will boost your energy and motivation.”

Cut yourself some slack

If you’re beating yourself up for being stuck in a workout, cut yourself some slack. “The first thing to realize and accept is that ruts are normal!” says Van Wyk. “Even the most ardent fitness enthusiast will stumble from time to time.”

Instead of beating yourself up about why you’re stuck in a rut or how you got there, show yourself some compassion. Feeling guilty or ashamed about letting your fitness habits slide won’t help you motivate yourself. Instead, accept that everyone struggles with fitness from time to time—and that it’s a normal part of being human.

And the funny thing is, cutting yourself loose? It might just be what you need to move on. “That’s a burden [finding yourself in a workout rut is] Can stop completely normal stress and guilt,” says van Wyk. When you get rid of stress and guilt, it can make it easier to get motivated and start working again.

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