For many of us, our workout routines are sacred. We spend four hours or more dedicated to them every week with tons more time spent thinking about them when we’re not in the gym. When your routine is as tailored to you as possible, it’s a great feeling. You’re firing on all cylinders, getting results and looking forward to the next sweat sesh.
It’s not always like that, however, and even the best of us can feel uninspired or dissatisfied with our routine.
Is it time for a new workout routine? Here are the signs to look for:
- You’re bored in the gym.
- You’ve hit a plateau.
- You keep fighting off injuries.
- Your goals have changed.
- You’re daydreaming about else the fitness world has to offer.
- You’re excited about the idea of trying something new.
These are just a few of the reasons why people tweak, modify or altogether change their workout routine. If you think it’s for you, here are the tips, tricks and steps to create a custom workout plan you’ll love.
What Is Your End Game?
It helps to start with your end goal in mind, that “end” in this case being where you hope your workout routine takes you. Are you trying to get boulder shoulders and a six-pack or training for your first half marathon? Or maybe you just want to lose a little holiday weight gain and kick-start 2020 by lacing up your running shoes, buying new workout clothes for women and sticking to a consistent routine. Whatever the case, having a clear understanding of your goals will help your routine take shape.
For some, you might need just minor adjustments to your current plan to get into your preferred shape. For others, you might do a complete 180, such as leaning down after spending the last few months bulking up. Figure out your end goal, and the exercises, sets, reps and diet will follow suit.
What Is Your (Realistic) Schedule?
Everyone’s schedule is different, which is why building a workout routine that doesn’t waste time but that gets you results is a delicate balance and unique from person to person. Just like you prefer certain brands of workout clothes for women and your lift partner likes another, you might not be able to squeeze in a HIIT workout on Monday afternoons as your friend could.
Remember: Great workout routines are all about consistency, so make sure you’re building a plan you can stick to. Even if scheduling six workouts per week looks good on paper, if you can only realistically make time for four during the week, fill the other days with active recovery or cross-training. Stressing about time or your schedule while in the gym can hinder your progress, so stick to something that practically works with the time you have, and you’ll be all the better for it.
Challenge Yourself with New Exercises
If you’re changing your workout routine out of boredom or lack of intensity, up the ante and mix in some new movements that will push you. Been on the powerlifting train for some time? Step off the deadlift platform and grab a kettlebell. Or, if you’re just getting bored with the pick-up, put-down routine of weightlifting altogether, take off your weightlifting shoes and try adding a day or two of dedicated cardio to your schedule. The options are endless, and just when you think you’ve done everything imaginable, someone invents something new. Experiment with different lifts or movements as long as they fit your goals.
Implement Active Recovery
You may have all of your movements set in stone, and rarely deviate from the plan, but have you ever scheduled active recovery? For most, we either have “on” days or “off” days. Some people are more “on” than others, taking maybe one day off a week to rest up. Instead, you should consider scheduling active recovery days to focus on mobility, flexibility and recovery.
When choosing how you’ll actively recover, focus on keeping your body moving, working on your range of motion and repairing your muscles. On your active recovery days, you can go for a long walk, foam roll, take a leisurely swim or attend a more relaxed yoga class. These are just a few of the most popular things people like to do on their recovery days, but the choice is up to you. Just make sure you’re staying light, not exerting a ton of energy and doing something that makes your body and your mind happy. That way, you’ll be more than ready to get after it the next time you step into the gym.
Take a Class or Hire a Trainer
For the seasoned lifter or runner, the idea of taking a fitness class or hiring a trainer for a few sessions may seem way too beginner-level to consider. You’ve gotten this far on your own—why would you have someone “teach” you how to workout? It’s a fair question, but no matter how much of an expert you might think you are, you’re likely not a paid, full-time type of expert. Everyone has room to grow and could benefit from some advice or from trying out a new fitness class.
Trainers can teach you a lot about form, intensity and recovery. A quality trainer will have spent years studying fitness and might know your body’s needs better than you might think. Classes in a new activity are also a helpful way to add structure to your routine if you feel it’s lacking. Look for personal training opportunities at your gym and schedule at least one session. You might learn a lot more than you expect and find your fitness inspiration again.
Incorporate Some Cross-Training
It’s easy for lots of us to get stuck in the same training pattern. We do the same exercises over and over week-in and week-out and, although we see incremental progress, whether we know it or not, we can also develop bad habits. Just like you wouldn’t want to do only upper body lifts because it’ll lead to imbalances, neglecting other training areas can leave gaps in your overall fitness. Cross-training is the solution, and if you aren’t doing it already, you should start incorporating one or two sessions per week.
Every person will have different gaps in their fitness. Runners might need to strength train to build muscle and protect their joints. Weightlifters could probably implement more cardio to help with their endurance and cardiovascular health. And both groups could likely use a little bit of yoga to help with mobility and range of motion too.
There isn’t one right or wrong way to cross-train—it all depends on your current needs, schedule, etc. Find an activity that you think complements your existing (or new) routine well and incorporate it into your schedule once or twice per week.
Know Nothing Is Permanent
At the end of the day, your workout routine is less of a sprint and more of a marathon that lasts the rest of your life. You’re not one to be fooled by promises of getting shredded in X weeks, so you know that consistency is what matters the most. You’ll go through changes, some better than others, and that’s OK. Try not to stress too much. Continue seeking new ways to optimize based on your schedule, goals and what your body is telling you. Try out a new workout plan, and if you don’t like it, your old exercise routine is still there.
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