Are you stuck in an exercise rut? Maybe the thought of logging miles on a treadmill while catching up on the morning news no longer excites you. Perhaps you’ve stopped seeing progress, making you rethink your gym commitment.
Before you throw in the towel, consider how you can shake up your routine. Doing so engages different muscle groups, helping you overcome training plateaus or regain a sense of excitement about your workouts.
What should you do when another elliptical session sounds roughly as inviting as a trip to the dentist without laughing gas? Here are six creative ways to exercise when you’re stuck in a rut.
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1. Head to the Playground
The outdoors can heal your body and mind and make you glad you laced up your running shoes. Multiple studies show that gazing at natural scenes helps lower stress levels while improving focus, and your lungs will appreciate a breath of fresh air. Plus, you’ll encounter fewer exhaled germs than you would sweating it up indoors with a group of people.
Exercise also benefits your toddler, so why not head to the playground? While they skip, climb and jump, you can do the same, using the monkey bars to improve your grip and upper body strength and doing a few triceps dips on the benches. Most facilities have walking and jogging tracks to get your cardio if chasing your little one during a game of tag is insufficient. Climbing ladders engages your glutes and riding with your little one gives you the perfect excuse to zip down a slide without getting funny looks from other adults.
2. Grab Your Partner
Research shows that people who work out with a partner are more likely to stick with the program, especially if the other individual offers encouragement and emotional support. Plus, extraverted sorts find it more fun to log a 5-mile run if they have a partner to chat with along the route.
Working out with a partner also opens up new possibilities. Have you heard of acroyoga? This fun exercise form might delight you if you adored cheer in high school — you have a flier, a base and a spotter.
Finally, working out with a partner is safer during the year’s shortest days. Going on a 5 a.m. run in January is scary, even if you don’t mind the cold — but the buddy system makes you less likely to become a target.
3. Include the Thrill of Competition
Are you the competitive sort? If so, involving the thrill of competition can be a creative way to exercise when you’re stuck in a rut, and you can do so in multiple ways.
Remember the partner suggestion above? Why not introduce a contest element? For example, you might challenge your spouse or workout buddy to see who can improve their 1-mile running pace the most over the coming month. The loser has to prepare dinner and do the cleanup for a week or treat the winner to a nice night on the town.
Your local parks and recreation department is another resource, as many offer various team sports for competitors of all ages. If you loved playing volleyball or softball in high school or college, why not indulge in a bit of healthy nostalgia by pulling out that old shortstop’s glove and signing up? You might meet some new friends while you mix up your exercise routine.
4. Get Into a Rotation
Who says you have to do the same workout every day or follow the same schedule each week? The ultimate way to get creative with exercise when stuck in a rut is to do something different. How might such an approach look in practice?
You need to ensure your plan includes all three components of fitness — strength, cardiovascular endurance and flexibility. One approach is to go day by day. For example, you might run one day and lift weights the next, with a bit of flexibility work at the end of each workout.
You could also design more elaborate schedules. For example, one week could be running cardio week, followed by a week of dance, cycling or kickboxing or alternate a free and machine weights program.
5. Try Something New
Another way to mix up your routine when you’re stuck in an exercise rut is to try a workout you’ve never done before. For example, you might not feel comfortable undressing for a nude yoga class, but what about an aerial or paddleboard version?
Other new workout trends to try include the following:
- LIT: Similar to HIIT, these low-intensity interval classes are gentler and less punishing while still working up a sweat.
- Studio cycle variations: Riding an exercise bike won’t feel boring if you’re belting out your favorite karaoke tunes at the same time or enjoying a movie on the big screen.
- Mini workouts: Who said you had to get all 30 to 60 minutes of daily fitness at once? Mini workouts take only 10 to 15 minutes while providing similar benefits.
6. Dangle a Daily Carrot
Remember Pavlov? That good old boy got his dogs to salivate at the sound of the bell by associating the ringing with dinnertime. Humans aren’t that different, and associating exercise with a pleasant reward can sometimes inspire you to work out if you’d otherwise remain couch-bound.
Most mere mortals can’t afford to shop for new workout duds after every bike ride. However, could you pair that must-have cup of coffee with completion? Knowing a hot, steamy cup of gourmet joe awaits you helps you associate your fitness routine with an immediate reward, a psychological trick that could help you stick to your program.
Creative Ways to Exercise When You’re Stuck in a Rut
Even dedicated exercisers hit plateaus. Others lose motivation. What can you do when you’re stuck in a rut?
Try one of these creative ways to exercise. You’ll re-energize your routine and reach new fitness heights.