A routine offers certain benefits; it’s something we can count on being predictable and comfortable. We know what to do once a routine is established and the learning curve levels out. A routine is easy to remember and easy to follow. However, routines can also create boredom and result in a lack of motivation and overall progress. This is particularly true when it comes to a fitness routine.
The human body likes routine; it favors homeostasis and will, therefore, resist changes unless an overload is applied. Just like the mind, the body gets bored and settles into whatever routine is established and soon no more progress is made. To keep the body (and the mind) from reaching a plateau, pay attention to these top “it’s time to change the routine” signals.
Know the Signs
1. Progress halts. Perhaps the biggest signal of all is when the body stops responding to your efforts in the gym. This is called a plateau. This doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong in your routine; plateaus are all too common. In order to break beyond this barrier to progress, a change in the program is warranted. This can be accomplished through manipulating one or more program variables (frequency, intensity, time, and mode of exercise). Consider adding interval training days or changing the type of strength program you have. Keep the body guessing!
2. You’re Bored. If you find yourself dreading your next workout, consider if it’s the boredom factor. Mentally, boredom creates a lack of enthusiasm and engagement with a workout. Physically, boredom leads to low energy levels, so you may find yourself working out at a much lower intensity than when you initially began the program. It’s time to infuse some new energy – try a different form of cardio, train for an event, or check out a group fitness class (also a great source of social support).
3. A key factor in evaluating a current program is to determine how you feel after the workout is completed. Yes, you should feel physically exerted – not drained. A lack of feeling energized and rested may be a sign that you’ve reached the finish line with your current regimen.
4. Clock Watching. When a workout is energizing, fun and fresh, time flies by without you taking notice. If you discover your focus is on the clock and not on the workout, it’s time to change course and try something new.
5. The Challenge is Gone. Workouts should challenge you – both mentally and physically. If it feels too easy, it is. Try adding a few new lifts each week (depending on your level of experience and strength) or use a new fitness tool such as a BOSU ball or try downloading a new fitness app to switch things up.
Seek Joy in a Workout
Reaching a plateau is not a sign of something you’ve done wrong; it’s a signal from both the body and mind that is loudly proclaiming – “I need a new challenge!” To maximize results, consider scheduling periodic changes in your routine such as every six weeks. If you’re new to exercise, progress slowly and make intelligent changes to avoid unintentional injuries and early burnout. Aside from a program being safe and effective, the most important characteristic to consider is enjoyment. If a program isn’t challenging AND fun, progress will never be made and you will begrudgingly approach each session with muted enthusiasm.
A workout should work for you – not against you or the goals you set for yourself. If you’re experiencing any of these signs, take the time to dig yourself out of the fitness rut and spring clean your workout routine.
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