3 Signs Your Workout Isn’t Working Anymore

By K. Aleisha Fetters |

Did your fitness routine turn into a rut? Here’s when it’s time for a fresh fitness plan.

workout isn't working

You’ve got your workout routine down pat, and when it comes to exercise, you’re as consistent as they come. You should be set to meet your fitness goals, whether they’re to build muscle, lose weight, or improve endurance, right?

Yes and no—there’s a fine line between a routine and a rut. And for many of us, it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two. But that stagnation can lead to a fitness plateau and frustration over a lack of results.

Here are three signs your workout isn’t working anymore, plus exactly how to bust your rut.

Sign #1: You Dread Your Workouts

Sure, everyone has a bad workout now and then. But if workouts you used to love simply don’t feel enjoyable anymore, that’s a red flag. At best, this means you’re bored. At worst, it means you’re running yourself down. Either way, you need to switch things up.

“Introducing novelty into your workout routine will lead not only to breakthroughs for your physical health, but for your mental well-being as well,” says Justin Ross, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist who specializes in sports performance.

Bust your rut: You don’t have to overhaul your entire routine, but changing at least a few of your weekly workouts can help you find your enthusiasm again. Experiment with gym equipment you may not be using but totally should, like TRX suspension straps or kettlebells. If you regularly sweat solo, a fitness class can be a fun challenge.

Does a little competition give you a sense of purpose? Consider signing up for your first 5K or local senior fitness events.

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Sign #2: You Breeze Through Your Routine

When you start a new workout, you see performance gains fairly quickly. After the first month or so, you can typically add weight, intensity, or time. But when that progress slows or stops altogether, it’s a sign your body has gotten too comfortable.

The body is great at adapting to the stresses you put on it, says Josh Perez, a fitness specialist and owner of TruSelf Sporting Club in San Diego. And once your body has adapted to a point where it’s strong or fast enough to do your regular workouts with relative ease, that adaptation stops.

Bust your rut: Small tweaks to your fitness routine give your body new challenges and new opportunities to adapt, Perez says. If your exercise form is good, you can do a few more reps or even another set of an exercise, or you can choose a slightly heavier weight.

Another way to add a challenge: “Focus on performing the same movement pattern but in a slightly different way,” says Rachel Prairie, C.P.T., director of training at Anytime Fitness. For example, add a slight incline when walking on the treadmill, or swap your regular squat for a goblet squat to boost the glute benefits.

Sign #3: You Can’t Recall the Last Time You Tried a New Exercise

If you’re doing the same exact workout you were doing three months ago, you’re likely stuck in a rut—and not getting all the benefits you should from your exercise plan.

Ideally, you’d make some changes to your workout before it becomes stale. A good rule of thumb, Perez says, is adding novelty to your routine every three to six weeks.

Bust your rut: Create a reminder on your calendar or in your phone to regularly try a new exercise, take a cool new fitness class, or have a dedicated “play day” to do whatever movement sounds fun that day.

Get inspired with hundreds of exercises and a workout tracker on the free SilverSneakers GO app (iOS and Android). The app makes it simple to find exercises that fit your fitness level: Try an exercise, and choose “Easier” or “Harder” with one click.

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