3 Signs You’re in a Fitness Rut (& How to Mix It Up)

fitness rut

If you’re dragging yourself to the gym (and dreading it) and rolling your eyes while you’re at it, you just might be in a fitness rut. But you don’t have to stay there! We have a few simple strategies you can use to break out of that rut and get back on track.

How to Know If You’re in a Fitness Rut

Maybe you’ve been working out forever, or perhaps you’re newer on the scene. Either way, you might not always feel 100% like going all-out. Is this a problem? Technically, no. No one is going to be 100% all of the time. You’ll naturally have an ebb and flow to your levels of motivation, your energy and strength levels, and even your progress. This is normal. What’s not normal is when the downturns become more frequent and your desire to exercise fizzles out.

But don’t worry, it’s not usually something that happens suddenly, and there are steps you can take to avoid getting into a fitness rut in the first place. If you’ve been doing the same workout in the same way for a long time, you might want to take note. There are signs that you’re headed that way, such as:

1. You’re Half In, Half Out

If you’re not committed to your healthy lifestyle and you’re not really a regular at the gym, you might be half in, half out. Not being fully committed to something can leave you with little to no motivation. It’s a “chicken and the egg” sort of situation where the less you’re doing, the less progress you make (obviously), but then little to no progress makes you lose interest in pursuing your fitness goals.

If you’re tired of constantly taking one step forward and one step back, why not fully commit and take yourself to the next level? If you only give half-hearted effort, you’ll never make real progress, which in itself can demotivate you and put you in a fitness rut.

2. You’re Bored

If you’re feeling like you’re just going through the motions and your workouts are no longer interesting, you might be bored. A change will do your body good because if you constantly work it the same way, your body will adapt, and you’ll stop making progress, leading to boredom and maybe even injury.

If you just dread going to the gym because it’s no longer enjoyable, try something new. You can change your tempo, switch up your exercises, or try different types of workouts, like Tabata, a kettlebell routine, or maybe a fitness class.

And don’t forget about the incredible power of music. Music can impact your mood and some upbeat tempos might be just what you need to bring the energy to your workouts. So, load up your device with some fresh new tracks.

3. You’re Always Sore

This is a sign that your body isn’t fully recovering. It’s normal to be sore in the areas you worked for one to two days after your workout. You should be recovering well by day 3 and ready to go again soon after. If you’re not and your whole body is still feeling that last workout, you might need a break. If this is the case, take a look at other factors, too. What does your nutrition look like? What are your sleep patterns? Are you working out at the wrong time of day when your energy levels are naturally low? If everything else is in line, it just might be time to rest up for a few days and switch things up once you come back.

Okay, You’re Officially in a Fitness Rut… Now What?

So, you’re in a fitness rut and you want out. What can you do?

1. Take a Break

Try taking a complete break from your normal way of working out and even eating. If you’re always in the gym, try doing some outdoor activities instead like rock climbing, skating, softball, basketball, swimming, dancing, or hiking. A change of scenery can do you good. In fact, it’s a great idea to take a small break of a few days up to a week away from training once or twice a year for both mental and physical refreshment.

Taking a break doesn’t mean don’t move your body. It simply means taking a break from your current tired old routine and doing something different. You don’t need all exercise to be something formal, either. You can have fun, move your body, and still get great health benefits all while rekindling that fire within.

2. Try Some New Moves

Doing the same old, same old every day or every week can get really old, really fast. Try injecting some fun into your exercise routine and see if you can bring back some of that motivational fire. If you always lift free weights, why not try some body-weight exercises, mix it up with bands, or even do some circuit training on machines? Get a trainer to show you new or different equipment or movements that you’ve never tried before. Cross-training or kickboxing might be just what you need to put some power back into your workout sessions.

If you’ve been doing group classes, why not hire a personal trainer for a few sessions and try your hand at resistance training. Or, try Pilates classes on a reformer, join a kickboxing class, become a yoga instructor, or get your own certification as a personal trainer? Showing and teaching others can be a great way to both inspire others and re-inspire yourself.

3. Go New

Breaking out of a fitness rut might be as simple as looking forward to something new. Whether it’s a change of venue (maybe a new gym), a new exercise routine (interval training instead of regular reps, a kettlebell workout, a Couch to 5K running program, etc.), breaking out of your rut can be as simple as doing or getting something new. Even a new outfit, a great pair of running shoes, a new fitness device, or other gear can boost your morale. Changing your environment or getting something new can make your exercise sessions exciting and fun again.

4. Set a Big Goal

Nothing will spur you forward like purpose. Don’t settle for little to no progress at the gym. It’s time to give yourself the results you deserve. Sign up for something big like a 5K race for charity or a photo shoot. Or, set a goal to be in tip-top shape for a big event like a vacation, wedding, or reunion. Do a fitness competition. Any of these will light a fire within you again because you’ll have both a deadline and an event to look forward to.

5. Make Sure Your Nutrition is Ready

If you don’t properly fuel your body, you can’t possibly expect it to perform well for you. Make sure you’re eating plenty of healthy foods and limiting ultra-processed and prepared meals. Get your protein from quality sources and include healthy fats and plenty of fresh veggies. Consider supplementing with quality vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and any other supplements you may need. The right nutrition can help you lose fat, build muscle, tone up, and stay energized.

Remember that exercise is a privilege, not a chore. When it starts feeling like a chore, it’s time to nip things in the bud and get back on track quickly. You’ll thank yourself for it with renewed energy, vitality, and health.