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How to Break Out of a Fitness Rut

It’s Time To Shake Things Up!

Posted by JesseSilkoff - February 6th, 2017

Anyone who’s worked out for any length of time has encountered it – you just can’t seem to break 100 pounds, no matter how many bench lifts you put in. Or maybe you’re not losing weight, or trimming down the way you were when you first started. When your performance plateaus, it can send you spiraling into the workout doldrums, making it hard to drum up the energy for another set, or another workout.

And your stale old workout routine isn’t just making you bored. Muscles need to be challenged to keep them performing at their peak – after a while, the same old weightlifting or cardio program just won’t bring the heat the way it used to. The good news is that bored muscles are a sign that you’ve progressed. You’ve gotten strong enough that your old workout routine isn’t hard anymore. How cool is that? Now it’s time to mix it up a little bit and give both your body – and your brain – something new to process. Here’s how to shake things up in the gym.

Is Your Block Mental Or Muscular?

Every fitness rut calls for its own prescription, so the way you handle it will need to be tailored to your own needs. To diagnose your exercise ennui, you need to start asking yourself some questions about why you feel so bored. Is it environmental? Maybe you’ve been going to the same gym every day when you’re the type of person who needs to spread their wings. In that case, a change of scenery may be all it takes. However, if your muscles have adapted to your routine, the fix may not be as simple. You may need to start a more complex training program that pushes your body in different ways from what you’re used to. Evaluate what’s driving your feelings of boredom—if you can’t figure it out by yourself, a professional trainer can help as well. Trainers know how to step up a workout program so that you can challenge your body and mind.

If It’s Environmental…

Swap your usual gym visit for some outdoor circuit training. Most of us are used to hopping on the machines or picking up weights to get in shape. That may be a great way to target specific muscle groups, but once those exercises stop lending results, it’s time to switch up the program.

Circuit training challenges muscles while adding flexibility and cardio to your routine – and you can do it anywhere, in case you need a break from the fluorescent lights in the gym. Studies indicate that too much strict cardio may actually lower testosterone levels, which can make it harder to pack on muscle. But you still need to get some high intensity cardio in if you want to avoid an unsightly pudge. A couple rounds of hang cleans, jump squats, push presses, pull ups, and barbell bent-over rowing will help you bulk up, while keeping your heart rate high.

If It’s Mental…

Try an unusual and stimulating activity. Sometimes a block is all in your mind. If you’re the kind of person who needs a big challenge in front of them, the same-old, same-old gym pattern is going to pale in comparison to running your first 10K. If you like your workouts extreme, try opting for a new high-intensity activity, like parkour or Krav Maga classes. Or what about white-water rafting? Rock climbing? Mountain biking? Weight lifting reps prepare you muscularly for these kind of challenges, but real-life activities like these force you to put it all together. And you’ll probably find that the imminent threat of a cliff wall really gets your heart pumping – in more ways than one.

If It’s Physical…

Take a look at what you’re doing outside of the gym. If your workout still feels really hard, even though you’ve been doing the same thing for weeks, there’s a chance that you’re not giving your body the proper tools it needs to recover. Rest plays an imperative role in bulking up. It’s during sleep, for instance, that our bodies release the growth hormones necessary for muscle development. So if you’re not getting a solid seven to nine hours a night, it can definitely interfere with your workout.

Likewise, if you’re going too hard every time you hit the weights, all that effort can backfire. After an intense workout, your muscles need time to repair themselves – in some cases up to 48 hours – before you can hit the gym like a maniac again. That isn’t a pass to spend a day vegging out on the couch, though. A solid low-intensity workout the next day will limit muscle soreness, for one, and speed along your progress. Just remember to take it easy – try a light jog or some laps in the pool. Lastly, if your progress has plateaued, pay attention to your nutrition. When you’re training hard, your body needs plenty of lean protein (and less donuts, Doritos, and dumplings) to keep repairing muscle after it’s spent.


Slumps are a natural part of the training process – just like their inevitable end. Try to focus your energy on what gets you pumped to work out – an upbeat mix, or a new barrier to topple – instead of ruminating on a bad week at the gym. You can, and you will, shake your fitness rut eventually, so don’t sweat it. After all, you’ll need to save all the sweat you have for your brand-new workout routine!

*Jesse Silkoff is an avid runner and tennis player. He currently resides in Austin, TX where he works as the President and Co-Founder of FitnessTrainer, the leading online marketplace to find a local personal trainer that can help you achieve your health and wellness goals.

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posted by JesseSilkoff
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Jesse Silkoff is an avid runner and tennis player. He currently resides in Austin, TX where he works as the President and Co-Founder of FitnessTrainer, the leading online marketplace to find a local personal trainer that can help you achieve your health and wellness goals!

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Super awesome article! I find that most of the time, it's purely mental!