It happens to the best of us: stress, a packed schedule, work and social commitments, and plain old exhaustion get in the way of us fully participating in our exercise regimen. It’s called a workout rut—when you stop exercising as often or as hard as you used to, or perhaps altogether. Basically, you’re less motivated, in almost every way, to get back to the gym. We turned to top fitness coaches to glean their best-kept tips for breaking out of a workout rut, stat.
Remind yourself of your “why.”
Your “why” is the reason you exercise. “There comes a moment with every new client I train that I can point to as our ‘why moment,’” says Mike Guastella, certified strength, and conditioning specialist. “It’s an extremely important, vulnerable moment for someone to discover, because, if you can find it and connect to it, there’s no stopping you.”
He recommends carrying a note card that has your “why” written on it everywhere you go. “Have it easily accessible and somewhere you have to look every day—above the mirror, taped to the dashboard of your car, etc.,” he adds. “If it’s important enough to you, you will find a way. If it’s not important enough, you’ll find an excuse.”
Enlist an exercise buddy.
An exercise pal can hold you accountable on those days when your schedule is too busy or your couch feels a little too comfortable. “A workout partner can also inspire you to work harder or try something new,” says Meghan Kennihan, certified personal trainer, and running coach. For the best results, she recommends working out with someone who you think is even slightly more fit than you. Research shows that people gravitate towards the behavior of those they exercise with.
Add some HIIT to your training.
Slow and steady doesn’t always work in fitness, according to the pros. “Always taking it easy will not yield results and can also be boring, which means you’ll be less motivated to pick it up the next day,” says Kennihan. “Beat boredom, save time, and up the ante on your workout with high-intensity interval training (HIIT).” She recommends doing two or three sessions of sprint training or hard interval sessions. Each is as effective as five longer, more moderate exercise sessions.
Branching out from a typical, go-to workout will keep both the body and mind guessing. “If you are a runner who runs five days a week, avoid a workout rut by turning one of those days into something new,” suggests Kennihan. “The same goes if you’re a lifter who lifts three times per week. Add some sprint cardio sessions one or two times per week.” Each new and different workout targets different muscle groups. This can help reduce plateaus, injury, and boost your fitness level.
Track your progress.
Tracking your progress is a tangible strategy that helps you figure out whether or not your workout rut is hurting your health and fitness. “Grab a notebook and track your average pace, weight lifted, heart rate, scale weight body fat percentage, etc.,” she says. You can also use Aaptiv to keep track of the type of workouts you perform.
Sign up for an event.
Try an exercise activity to help get you back on track after a workout rut. “The moment you sign up, you will have something to train for rather than just going through the motions,” says Guastella. “Dive all-in to what you’re training for and I guarantee you, you will learn a ton about yourself!” So sign up for that triathlon, powerlifting meet, or 5K, 10K. Make it fun and enlist the participation of your friends, family, and co-workers.
Check your diet.
Give your body the most optimal chance at recovery after a workout rut and fuel it with the right foods. “Meals that emphasize fresh, whole food and a few lean [types of] meat will give you a steady supply of energy,” says Kennihan. “If you are always quitting your workout early or stuck in the same easy routine you may not be giving your body what it needs to improve.”