For anyone who exercises regularly, the signs of sliding off track are usually clear: Those kettlebells you so lovingly swung for months suddenly seem to have lost their former charm; the treadmill you once crushed leaves you listless; you’ve gone from high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to mostly sitting. It’s time to face the uncomfortable truth—your fitness routine has fallen into an exercise rut.
For many people, winter only exacerbates this problem. After all, the cold and dark leaves many of us wanting nothing more than to sleep in or curl up in the evenings with Netflix and a comfy couch. But with spring nearly here, now is an ideal time to regroup mentally, refocus your goals, and refresh your exercise routine.
It’s natural to want to take a break now and then. In fact, allowing your body to rest is crucial to building muscle mass, reducing fat, and enhancing general health and wellness. But when your lack of inspiration reduces your overall exercise habit, that can really set you back.
“Since exercise is one of the single best things we can do for our minds, bodies, and well-being, anything that makes it less likely we'll do it is bad news,” says certified fitness trainer Jeanette DePatie.
As a plus-size instructor who focuses on helping “people of all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities learn to love their bodies and love exercise,” DePatie’s experience motivating different types of people has allowed her to notice the patterns of exercise fatigue—and given her insights into how to combat it.
“Workout ruts happen primarily out of boredom,” she says. “Generally our minds get bored with something way before our bodies do. But even our bodies get stuck in a groove doing the same thing over and over.”
Here are DePatie’s top four tips to spring clean your routine:
“Variety is the key,” DePatie explains. “There are so many ways to add a little spice to your routine. Maybe try something new that doesn't even feel like ‘exercise.’ How about surfing lessons or a hula dancing class? Maybe geocaching or paddleboarding.” The goal, she indicates, is to shake things up, add variety, and create some excitement about and renewed interest in exercise.
1. Opposite Day. One way to battle exercise boredom is take an “opposite day” approach, in which you completely switch out your usual patterns. “If you usually exercise inside, try going outside,” DePatie says. “If you usually exercise alone, try a class or vice versa.” While it seems like a simple fix, it’s surprising how often people stick to what they’re used to, rather than occasionally trying something new.
2. Change Scenery. If dark and rainy weather dampens your motivation, consider planning an overnight hiking trip to someplace with more sun. If you live in sunnier climes, a snowshoeing or cross-country skiing excursion can help flip the switch. If you’re lucky enough to have the time and resources, DePatie suggests a fitness-oriented vacation or yoga retreat.
3. Something Fresh. “We have so many muscles and nerves that can move in nearly infinite ways,” DePatie says. “Try adding bursts of extra intensity via HIIT or some other interval system. Try working out with a trainer, or switching to a new trainer.”
If you’re on a budget, something as simple as walking or biking to work can be a great way to incorporate more movement and fresh air into your daily routine. Put together a new playlist, or ask your friends to share their favorite high-energy tunes, and see if that gets you moving.
4. Have Fun. “Be like a kid,” she says. “Go play outside. Host a spontaneous dance party for you and the kids or grandkids. Go to that fabulous new museum you’ve been wanting to see, and enjoy a culture-filled walk. The options are nearly endless.”
In the long run, perhaps the best way to cure workout burnout is to prevent it. When you integrate a wide variety of physical activities into your life, exercise will be anything but routine.
Jonanna Widner lives in Portland, OR, where she writes about sports, music, travel, and fitness.