People are creatures of habit. We tend to stick with familiar routines because they’re comfortable and give us a certain sense of control over our circumstances. When we’re in a routine, we can go on “autopilot” and just coast along. However, when it comes to fitness, sticking with the same old routine can eventually produce less-than-impressive results or even become counterproductive. To stay firmly on the path to achieving our fitness goals, it’s necessary to change up our routines from time to time.
How do we know when we’re due to change up our workout routine? Here are five signs:
1. Progress is tapering off
When we begin a new fitness regimen, we tend to get gratifying results (in terms of weight loss or increased strength, endurance, or flexibility) early on, but gradually progress slows and we see fewer and fewer benefits for our efforts.
The reason for this plateau effect is that the body has a remarkable ability to acclimate and adjust to the demands and stresses placed upon it, so what was once challenging becomes easier and yields diminishing fitness returns. Changing up your fitness routine every so often will keep your body “guessing” and prevent adaptation.
2. Your current workout is too easy
Expanding on the first point, one clear indication that your body has adapted to your fitness regimen is that your workout has become too easy. Though it might seem to be evidence of progress that you can breeze through your workout, you’re actually at a stand-still.
A few signs that your workout may be too easy include:
You seldom break a sweat.
Your heart rate barely budges.
You can carry on a comfortable conversation during your workout.
You find that you’re focusing more on your cell phone, the TV, chatting with fellow gym-goers, or other distractions than on your workout.
The tenth rep of a given strength-training exercise is as easy as the first.
You no longer experience any degree of fatigue after a workout.
3. You’re bored with your workout
Sticking with any fitness regimen takes considerable motivation because, let’s face it, there are always easier—and more fun—things we could be doing instead of working out. If you think your workout is dull or borders on drudgery, odds are rather slim that you’ll stick with it long enough to see results.
4. You’re getting injured
“No pain, no gain” is among the worst fitness advice ever dispensed—not because working out should never cause any degree of soreness or discomfort, but because this saying downplays the fact that pain is the body’s way of saying “slow down” or “stop what you’re doing.”
Pain during workouts can arise from a variety of different fitness missteps, such as using incorrect form, overusing a joint or muscle group, failing to give your body adequate time to recover in between workouts, exercising beyond your current capabilities, etc. So, if you’re experiencing pain with your workouts, don’t try to push through it. Find out what you’re doing wrong and adjust your regimen accordingly.
5. You’ve set a new fitness goal
Perhaps you’ve lost all the weight you wanted to lose and now would like to focus on improving your muscle strength and definition. Or maybe you’ve run several 5Ks and are now setting your sights on a multi-sport event such as a duathlon or triathlon. Keep in mind that the workout program you used to reach your prior fitness goals may or may not be sufficient—or appropriately targeted—to help you accomplish your new goal.
If you’re noticing any of these five signs and would like to change up your workout, a good place to start might be scheduling some time with a personal trainer. He or she can help you make timely, appropriate alterations to your routine in order to prevent those frustrating plateaus so you continue to make strides toward your fitness goals.