We’re all creatures of habit, especially when it comes to our workout routines. Once we’ve mastered or at least attained a certain type of exercise and consistency, we tend to stick with it. While any exercise is better than none at all, switching things up when it comes to your workouts is also important.
Why? Your muscles function similarly to your brain in that they can fall into patterns of movement if you do the same thing every day, explains Rachel Welch, certified health coach, yoga instructor, and founder of the post-natal fitness method Revolution Motherhood. “This means that performing the same workouts will make some muscles very strong while letting others fall by the wayside,” she warns. “Keeping your workouts diverse and challenging will yield the results you want: full functional movement and strength coupled with sharpened attention and emotional balance.”
When you’re performing the same-old workout moves day after day, your mind wanders to other things in your life and you’re not as fully present as you are when you’re doing something new or at least different than what you did the day before. “That can lead to boredom which could ultimately derail your routine,” says Jennifer Sobel, NASM-certified personal trainer, professional dancer and creator of The Belly Dance Solution. “Switching up your workout routine won’t just help prevent you from getting bored, it will help ensure you don’t overtrain or set yourself up for injuries.”
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults perform 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise each week in addition to two days of muscle strengthening activity. “The best approach to creating a balanced exercise routine is to spread this activity evenly throughout the days of the week rather than being a ‘weekend warrior,’ which can put you at risk for injuries,” says Sobel. “Ideally, it’s best to workout 4-5 days per week and have a combination of activities that are both cardiovascular and muscle building, like weight training that are alternated with workouts that are more cardiovascular, like running or biking.” The timing in the day doesn’t matter as much, she notes—it’s more about choosing a time that you can be consistent with and that you enjoy.
You might be wondering: “Is my workout routine varied enough—or should I be switching up my routine more often?” Here, exercise pros share the common red flags that indicate it’s time to mix things up.
You’re experiencing consistent muscle or joint pain
If you’re consistently experiencing muscular or joint pain in the same areas, it could mean that you’re overusing those muscles, warns Sobel. “Repetitive motion, whether it’s typing on your keyboard or jogging, can lead to overuse injuries and inflammation in the muscle, connective tissue or joints,” she says. She recommends taking a break from that activity for a week or two to see if you experience any pain relief. “This doesn’t mean you have to stop moving, it’s just a signal to start cross training,” she says. “Try a different activity that works different muscle groups or something that is more focused on mobility, like yoga.”
You’re lacking motivation
If every day you have to muster up the energy to perform your workouts, you may be burnt out and in need of something new. If this is the case, Sobel suggests swapping that activity with something different two or three times per week. “You just might find this sparks your desire to move again and you also might get more joy from your ‘old’ workout routine,” she says. “Do something you’ve always wanted to try or do something that is good exercise but also accomplishes something like gardening.”
You feel tired after your workout instead of energized
Your workouts should give you energy, not deplete you of energy. If you’re feeling exhausted after your workout, this may be a sign that you’re overtraining, especially if you’re hitting your workout 5 days or more per week, according to Sobel. “Our bodies repair and get stronger in the resting phase—if we don’t give ourselves enough rest, it’s like water leaking out of a broken cup,” she says. “This lack of rest will often manifest as a feeling of never completely refilling our cup.”
You are not incorporating weight training, and are frustrated with little weight loss
“Many people immediately run to the treadmill when they want to drop some weight, but weight training is also essential for weight loss,” says Allen Conrad, BS, DC, CSCS, Montgomery County Chiropractic Center in North Wales Pennsylvania. “By increasing your lean body weight through resistance training, you are training your body to drop some excess pounds, even when not trying.” If you’re relying too much on cardio, he recommends adding resistance weight trading to your daily cardio routine for long term sustained weight loss goals.