Let's face it, slumps happen. Writers get writer's block, athletes experience performance lags. When stuck in an exercise rut, you may find reasons to skip workouts until, before you know it, you've forgotten where your gym shoes are and you know your sofa all too well.
Pull yourself out of a fitness slump with the following ways to breathe life into your exercise sessions:
1. A break is as good as a change
When workouts get hum drum, it's not necessary to completely abandon your current program and start fresh. Sometimes a break is all you need to get back on track. For one week, give yourself permission to abandon familiarity. Sign up for a new class, discard your weights and try cardio, get recreational with a hike or rollerblading, go dancing or take a yoga class. Perhaps what you really need is a nap. If fatigue is a factor, rest can be the best thing to get you excited about exercise again. When the week is up, you may have gained a new appreciation for your old fitness program.
2. Phone a friend
What are friends for if they can't commiserate with you through the grunt, sweat and fears of your dreaded workout? Not only does fitness partnership increase the likelihood of getting to and completing your scheduled workout, you're also more likely to work harder, have more fun, and maybe even get new ideas to motivate you when a buddy is near. The "phone a friend" option really works because your pal holds you accountable. Choose your friend wisely, pick an activity you can both enjoy, and get to it.
3. Be kind to barriers
Sometimes fitness motivation drops as a result of poor scheduling. Take a look at your weekly schedule. Have you chosen the best possible times for your workouts or are they times that are likely to be hit by distractions or other commitments? When workouts have to compete with meetings or deadlines, they rarely take first priority. Respect the importance of your exercise routine by scheduling it into time slots that are least likely to meet other challenges. Evaluate the feasibility of early a.m. workouts or shorter workouts at noon. Try exercising a different time. Your newly scheduled workout may be difficult to get used to at first, but it could offer fresh perspectives and provide you with the determination you need to strive towards consistency and success.
4. Class-ify your cardio options
If you've never tried a group exercise class, check your club's schedule and pick one that interests you. Many clubs cater to women and men in all areas of fitness, and group classes can energize in ways solo workouts can't. Already aerobicizing? Go to a class you've never been to. Sign up for Stripper-size, get a boost with boxing, cycle, step or pump. If you've never done it, you may be surprised by how much you like it.
5. Weigh your strength options
If you normally work with heavy weights and low reps on eight exercises, pick four of them and go for sets of 30. High-endurance sets will work your muscles in a different way and the "burn" can be great for laying down a stronger functional foundation for progressing back to your heavy weights. On the flip side, if you're always performing 12-15 repetitions with moderate to light weights, why not try heavier weights that only allow you to do six to eight reps? The fresh change to your workout is the difference between endurance training and strength training, and it means quicker, higher-intensity workouts.
Page 1 of 2 - on page 2, find out how to overcome workout barriers
6. Invite Mother Nature to your workout
Whether it's a walk in the park, a hike in the mountain, or a bike ride around the lake, it all counts as fitness. When you choose the great outdoors as your playground, you get the benefits of fresh air, great scenery (and/or people watching), and the freedom to change exercise venues with each workout. Check out local hiking or walking clubs. If water is your thing, look up canoe or kayak clubs. Recreational cycling and mountain biking are also fabulous ways to get fit outdoors. The options are endless. Whether it's winter or summer, Mother Nature really knows how to motivate!
7. Dress for success
Fitness shouldn't be all about fashion, but feeling good should be a major part of your workout plans. When was the last time you bought yourself a new outfit to exercise in? Although many of us would rather get those strappy new heels or the smart jacket that goes so well with our favourite jeans, a new exercise top and matching pants can go a long way to making your workouts exciting again. Today's breathable fabrics and fun colours mean fitness fashion can also take you straight to that coffee date afterwards. If you're heading to the gym in your oversized T-shirt and the same old boring shorts, go shopping -- then go to the gym.
8. Erase and replace
Sometimes it is necessary to wipe the slate clean of everything you've been doing. If you've established a standard program or been attending the same classes for a long period of time (greater than four to six continuous weeks), give your body a new challenge. Over time, your body adapts to exercise -- you get stronger, the exercise gets easier and, if you don't change your routine or increase your intensity, your body becomes more efficient and burns less calories per workout. That's usually when results start to slow down, an exercise plateau shows up, and motivation leaves. Avoid the plateau by changing your routine (even slightly) on a regular basis. A personal trainer can be of great help.
9. Fuel the fire
Many people say they have no energy for exercise or that they complete their workouts and then have nothing left to get through the rest of the day. If this sounds familiar, as yourself: "Am I eating enough?" Give your body a nutritional treat within the first 30 to 60 minutes after your workout. During this time frame, your body is a sponge that's ready to suck up nutrients for growth and energy replenishment. Post workout is not the time to deprive your body of fuel in favour of calorie-burning. The energy boost you'll feel after refuelling with a healthy snack will not only make your workouts more enjoyable, the calories will be put to good use -- building and maintaining strong machinery for the next workout.
10. Exercise recovery
When it's all said and done, exercise is important, but recovery after the workout is essential. That means giving your body adequate rest each night, proper amounts of food and hydration between workouts, and enough rest between workouts. Give yourself at least 24 hours between cardiovascular workouts (running, walking, cycling), and sometimes you may need as much as 48 hours of rest (or more) per muscle group with strength workouts. If your life is fast-paced and stressful, opt for lower-intensity workouts until the chaos subsides.
Page 2 of 2 -- On page 1 find five more tips to revive your workout routine!
Michelle Cederberg is a longtime fitness instructor, teacher, personal trainer and public speaker. She heads the personal-training departments at Heaven's Fitness and Fountain Park health clubs in Calgary. Cederberg has a master's in kinesiology from the University of Calgary and specializes in exercise-and-functional fitness and exercise-and-health psychology. Cederberg teaches in the faculty of physical education at Mount Royal College in Calgary and gives presentations on numerous health and wellness topics across Canada and the United states to fitness leaders, teachers and the general population.