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Getting Out of an Exercise Rut

Keeping your cardio routine fresh and interesting can help you avoid workout burnout
Written by 
Canyon Ranch Staff
Canyon Ranch Reviewer: 
Updated on: 
October 15, 2013
Same steps, different day. Sounds like you have gotten into an exercise rut. There can be something comforting about repeating one cardio workout routine over and over again. You know what to do and how long it will take you. But it can also eventually leave even the most intentioned exerciser feeling uninspired and uninterested in breaking a sweat. And when that happens, it’s easier to hit a weight loss or fitness level plateau—which can make finding the motivation to work out that much more challenging.
 
Keep your enthusiasm to live your healthiest life strong—and meet your goal of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, most days of the week—by putting boredom-beating strategies to work for you. Whether it’s finding new ways to challenge your muscles, turning your workout into a more social activity or simply harnessing the power of music to boost your enthusiasm and put pep in your step, you can give every workout a burst of fresh energy and continue on your path to the results you seek.
 
Integrate Intervals
An easy way to spice up an existing cardio routine and break out of a workout rut is to add in some interval training—alternating light exercise with more intense spurts involving a faster pace, more resistance or a steeper incline. These bursts of activity add a new challenge to your workout, and you can expect to see improvements as a result. Interval training can burn 30 percent more calories than the same amount of time spent working out at a more steady pace. What’s more, doing these challenging spurts keeps your metabolism humming along nicely long after your workout is over. Try including a few 15- to 30-second sprints into a jog, bumping up the level on the elliptical for a minute at a time or pedaling at a fast-and-furious pace for 30 to 60 seconds in between more moderately paced periods on the stationary bike.
 
Head for the Hills
Walking is a great choice for people of nearly all fitness levels, but putting one foot in front of the other on the treadmill can quickly become humdrum. In order to keep things interesting, consider trading that flat, indoor surface for a walk through the hilliest part of your neighborhood or local park. Stepping your way through changing surroundings (instead of staring at the gym wall) keeps your mind engaged, and incorporating hills into your walking routine helps you get your heart rate up, burn more calories and tone your muscles. Remember to pump your arms to engage them and your core muscles as you walk. To add another new twist to your walking workout, consider investing in a pair of walking poles—they get your arms moving more than they would on a treadmill, and using them can help you to burn 10 percent more calories than walking without them.
 
Find Your Soundtrack
The sights of a new running path. The touch of water against your skin as you swim. An exciting workout should stimulate all of your senses, and your hearing is no exception. Consider revamping your workout playlist and adding a new batch of up-tempo favorites. British researchers found that cyclists who listened to music as they rode pedaled quicker and experienced faster heart rates as the tempo of the songs increased. They also reported enjoying upbeat music more than slower tunes, feeling more motivated to work harder as a result.  Choose the activity your love—and music you love right along with it—and start moving to the beat (just make sure you don’t listen at a level that could be harmful to your ears or leave you less aware of your surroundings).
 
Try a Class
Mix things up by trying a cardio class for the first time, or one that’s new to you, if you already have a steady favorite. With the variety of options available, and trainers’ dedication to keeping their students progressing each week, you’re sure to move differently and stay on your toes with each passing session. Consider dance, kickboxing, step, spinning or whatever fitness classes catch your eye, or keep things even more interesting by trying a different class each week.
  
Buddy Up
Staying out of an exercise rut can be a lot easier when you have someone alongside you, encouraging you to try new things and stay the course. And like most situations, a trip to the gym or hiking trail is always more fun with some company. But the power of two (or more) may go far beyond that, according to scientists who conducted a study of rowers. The researchers found that more endorphins—the body’s natural feel-good hormones—were released when the athletes worked together than when they rowed individually. Feeling great during and after a workout is a sure-fire way to keep you excited about exercising, so ask a friend, family member or partner to team up with you on your fitness endeavors.
 
Download an App
There are plenty of mobile apps that can help you track your progress while providing exercise and nutrition advice. Having a simple, consistent guide to turn to is a great way to stay motivated and remind yourself of your goals. Get started with free or low-cost apps, such as Lose It, Nutrition Tips and iTreadmill.
“Every year, try to match or exceed your personal best. Everyone should have a record of physical achievement that they train and prepare for: swimming the lake in the summer, climbing the local mountain, doing the Zumba class at your gym. Whatever it is, your gym time can be geared toward achieving that goal.”
Reference(s) 
Harvard Health Publications
Mayo Clinic
National Institutes of Health