Knowing When to Switch to a New Workout Routine
by Steven Auger
Once you hit your stride at the gym, there's nothing that compares to the feeling of totally crushing your routine. And while it's great to be comfortable with your exercise regimen, how do you know when the time has come to make a change?
As you graduate from your beginner status, adopting a new workout routine (or advancing the one you've developed) can help you continue making progress and reach your fitness goals. So, we've compiled a few tell-tale signs that it's time to change things up, as well as some tips for doing so.
3 Signs It's Time for a New Workout Routine
If you're in the habit of going through the same motions when you enter the gym, and you feel like you've hit a plateau, it's probably time to mix things up! To get the best results out of your fitness routine, it's wise to switch it up often. This could mean you try something different every month, every week, or every time you visit the gym. Here are three indicators that it might be time to switch up your sweat sessions.
1. You're Not Reaching Your Goals
People exercise for all sorts of different reasons. And with those reasons come different exercise goals, whether it's to get stronger, healthier, or simply take a step out of their comfort zone.
That said, if you feel like you're stuck and no longer reaching your goals, then your body may have adapted to your current routine. If that's the case, a new (or more advanced) routine might just be the jumpstart you need! Performing the same exercises over and over — even if you like them — can derail your hard work.
2. You Can't Recover as Easily
A healthy amount of soreness following a workout can be a good sign, but if you're constantly feeling tired and aren't able to recover from a workout as easily, it may be a sign of overtraining. This is important to avoid, as it can potentially lead to burnout and injury.
If you can't recover — or tend to suffer from the same injury over and over — you may be going at it too hard or not practicing proper form. It's important to make sure your routine is balanced and you're not overworking one group of muscles. Opting for a new, well-rounded workout regimen is one way to stay injury-free and gym-happy!
3. You're Not Having Fun
Exercise is supposed to be fun and filled with all sorts of physical and mental challenges and rewards — and it often is! But occasionally, boredom can set in. Everyone experiences this from time to time. Thankfully, you can avoid a rut by mixing things up!
Loyal to the elliptical machine? Give the stair climber a try. Looking to build some strength? Add in some weights to complement your cardio.
3 Plateau-Busting Strategies
When you stop seeing results from your current exercise program, there's a good chance you've hit a plateau. Training plateaus are evident when you're not gaining strength or you can't shave any more time off of your mile. And although plateaus can be frustrating (who doesn't want to keep making progress?!), they are actually a good sign. Hitting a plateau is a clear indication that you have made progress, ACE Fitness explains.
There's more good news! You don't necessarily have to develop an entirely new workout routine to bust through that plateau; you can simply change up your current regimen with the following three strategies.
1. Alter the Original
Start by trying the same move differently. Instead of just a regular plank, mix it up and add in a forearm or side plank. Instead of a regular squat, try a goblet squat. Maybe add a medicine ball to your sit-up and mountain climber exercises.
"You don't always need to reinvent the wheel — just tweak it a bit," Men's Health suggests. This way, you don't have to completely give up an exercise you enjoy.
2. Switch Up Your Sets and Reps
Another plateau-busting trick to try is changing the number of sets and repetitions you do. Try doing more reps at a lower weight, or fewer reps at a higher weight. You can also increase your weight bit by bit until you feel challenged. Want to go the extra mile? Try performing your last set of each exercise to failure (meaning, as many repetitions as you possibly can).
3. Time Your Rest Periods
Lastly, it's a good idea to focus on rest time between sets. You might unknowingly be spending too much time resting between sets. So, pick a specific amount of time to rest between each set and try to stick with it. Men's Health recommends a work-rest ratio of 1:1, "which helps you build muscle endurance, making your muscles more resistant to fatigue" but this may be longer when you're really challenging yourself, or shorter if you're looking for cardiovascular strength training.
Beginning a new workout routine — or adding to the one you have created — can help you take the next step in your fitness journey. So, don't forget to give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for the progress you've made in the gym!
As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.