Exercise can be a great stress reliever. But if the thought of doing your regular routine makes you cringe, your workout may actually add to your stress.
To combat this, here are three ways you can shake up your fitness routine and start enjoying your workouts again.
1. Set goals and rewards
Working out just because it’s good for you is not enough motivation for most of us. Naturally, we want to be rewarded for our hard work.
Avoid rewarding yourself with food, though. Food is fuel, not something you earn.
The first step is to determine what motivates you:
- Competition: Many of us are naturally competitive, so joining a fitness challenge at work, in your community, or online can help motivate you to give your best effort.
- Money: If money motivates you, ask your friends and family to join you in a challenge with a cash reward. Ask participants to throw $5 in the kitty. Whoever makes it to the goal first wins the cash.
- Personal record: There’s nothing like doing your very best. Think about the exercise activities you enjoy and how you’d like to improve.
The second step is to set realistic goals. It’s important to focus on something more concrete than just weight loss. To feel a real sense of accomplishment while improving your overall health, aim for achieving your personal best 5k time, improving your muscle-to-fat ratio, or going down a pants size.
Many people find success signing up for a fun run or obstacle course challenge. It’s easier to get pumped up for a workout when you know you will ultimately attain a goal you’ve set for yourself.
Fun runs and 5ks often are tied to charity events, so you can meet your goals and help a person or organization in need at the same time. And who doesn’t love a race medal? You can find a list of upcoming races at RunOnTexas.com or DFWRaces.com.
2. Try something new
When we walk the same loop or follow the same workout DVD over and over, our muscles get used to the routine. That’s when plateaus happen – you aren’t gaining weight, but you aren’t losing it or becoming more fit either. Trying a new activity can spice up your workouts and jumpstart your energy.
I was a college basketball player, so I know how to do cardio and lift weights. I know my favorite exercises, and I enjoy them, but I got to a point recently when I wanted to shake up my routine a little bit.
A friend suggested I try a new class at my gym, and I was reluctant. I didn’t think I would like it,
But I found a wide variety of classes that appeal to lots of different people. Popular classes include Zumba, fitness “boot camps,” yoga, and more. Once I tried one, I really liked it.
I would caution, though, that you be careful about overuse injuries if you’re starting a new routine. Common injuries I see are rotator cuff impingement leading to shoulder pain, shin splints, runner’s knee, and stress fractures. If you do get injured, come see our team at the UT Southwestern Clinical Center at Richardson/Plano. We care for a wide variety of sports-related ailments with physical therapy, as well as surgical and nonsurgical treatments.
It’s best to gradually work into a new routine to improve your endurance and keep yourself injury-free. A personal trainer can help you safely build up to your full potential. If you haven’t been working out much, walking is a great way to get back in the groove.
It’s also a good idea to make an appointment with your family doctor before you dive into a new workout program to ensure you are healthy enough to participate in physical activity.
3. Find a buddy
Knowing that someone is counting on you can be a huge motivator. Find a friend you can work out with in person – go for a run together in the morning, enjoy a walk at lunch, or hit the gym together after work. You may not always feel like working out, but showing up to support your buddy will motivate you to stay on track.
If you have an unusual schedule or prefer to work out alone, plan to meet virtually with an accountability buddy over social media or text. Check in with each other daily or weekly to make sure you’re both on track to achieve your goals.
There are also a variety of apps available to help you connect with your workout buddy. Some apps allow you to track your progress and see how your friends are doing with their workout goals. Others offer personalized core and bodyweight workouts to keep your routines fresh. Many apps also offer support from an online community of thousands of people across the country who also are interested in staying fit.
Remember: It’s important to have fun when you exercise. Doing activities you love – yoga, running, walking, lifting weights – will help you stay focused on your goals while enjoying yourself at the same time.