As someone who has been running for nearly 2 decades, I have had my fair share of injuries. I’ve also had times where life or work was a little too crazy and my fitness goals slipped. Let’s just say I understand how hard it is to get back in shape after a hiatus. If you are looking to break out of your own fitness rut, here are some ways to help you get back on track:
Breaking Your Fitness Rut: Get the Facts
Whether you’re injured, fell off the wagon, or are just feeling plain lazy, it’s important to know what’s going on. If you’re trying to break out of your fitness rut after injury, see your doctor. Get a full analysis of what’s injured. Also get professional guidance on how best to return to activity.
If you’re fallen off the fitness wagon, consider why. Have you been burning the candle at both ends? Do you need more sleep? Are you eating properly? Bored with your current training plan?
Get to the root of the issue so you can effectively break out of your rut.
As for feeling lazy, I hear you; especially in the winter. Sometimes, all I want to do is curl up in a fuzzy blanket and nap the day away. However, that will not help me reach my goals.
If you’ve been bitten by the laziness monster, take some time to recall why you were exercising in the first place.
Easy Does It
Once you know why you’re in the rut or how to heal the injury that put you there, it’s time to move. The key is to move sloooowly.
The more gently you ease back into activity, the less your chance of re-injury. If you weren’t injured before, you certainly don’t want to be injured now!
As you ease back into your routine, make sure you’re not overdoing it. For runners like myself, this means a slow build back to old mileage levels. If you’re more of a gym rat, reduce the amount you’re lifting or cut certain reps out of your plan.
When I’m returning from injury, I increase both my warm up and cool down. This helps keeps my body happy by reducing the stress of the new routine. It also helps stave off soreness, which can be an easy excuse to bail on the next day’s workout.
Breaking Your Fitness Rut: Listen to Your Body
Ultimately, your body tells you what it does and does not need. Your job is to listen to it.
You can listen to your body effectively by tuning into its clues. Extra sore today? Cut back on miles and/or minutes. Have a certain recurring pain? Take it easy and do extra stretching, dynamic drills, or anything that helps alleviate the pain.
Do NOT push through it! This isn’t the time to over-exert yourself. Listen to your body’s signals so you know when you’ve reached your limit.
Your body will respond best to incremental changes. Remember that even the shorter workouts produce enough stress on your body that muscle damage occurs. Remember how it felt to be sidelined/overweight/unhappy if you need a reminder of why to stop early.
If at any point you feel pain, stop what you’re doing. Take a break and rest that body part or muscle. By cross training or doing a variation of the move, you can lessen your chance of injury.
Patience, Young Grasshopper
Patience is truly a virtue when it comes to breaking out of a fitness rut. It takes time for your body to build back to its previous fitness level.
Fortunately, our bodies are adaptive. They are built to be worked, and they respond well to incremental physical challenges.
Research suggests it takes roughly 6-8 weeks of modified exercise to build an adequate base. Be patient! Resist the urge to push yourself.
If you’ve been given a PT plan, make sure you follow it. And by follow the plan, I mean follow it precisely. Your doctor has your best interest at heart; heed their advice so you can be back in shape in no time!
Breaking Your Fitness Rut: Enjoy the Ride
As you work to break out of a fitness rut, there will be inevitable ups and downs. Make an effort to enjoy both.
On days where your workout seems too daunting, break it up into smaller sessions. If you aren’t able to do a certain activity due to injury or physical inability, find an alternative. I like to bike, hike, and swim when I can’t run. I also will throw in some yoga and gentle stretching when I can.
When you feel frustrated about your lack of progression, check yourself. A positive attitude will help so much more than negative vibes. Acknowledge your emotions, but don’t let them get the best of you.
Track your progress (I note my daily workouts on my calendar) and reward yourself along the way. This will help keep you motivated even when you’re sore or feeling disenchanted.
Just Keep Swimming
Whatever you do, don’t give up!
As with most things in life, if you work diligently and consistently, success will come. Write down your fitness goals, workout with a friend, or mix up your routine.
Whatever it takes to get you off the couch, just do it. Eventually, that injury or lazy phase will be a figment of your imagination.
Stay focused and keep moving forward, no matter how slowly.