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Step Out of Your Workout Rut

Which Culprit is to Blame for your Fading Energy?
  -- By Liz Noelcke, Staff Writer

It sneaks in slowly. You might not notice it at first, but pretty soon, its presence is undeniable. It’s all around, and it’s affecting your actions. Your workouts are going nowhere. Sooner or later, this happens to everyone.

When you’re stuck in a rut and no longer seeing progress, it’s important to figure out how to get out of the slump and back on track. When your progress begins to slow, re-evaluate your plan, and then start back at it. Read on to learn which culprit is to blame for your fading energy, and what you can do to give it a boost.

Culprit #1: Boredom
If you’re doing the same exact thing every time you work out, your body will become conditioned to the exercise. Pretty soon, the challenge is gone, and you’ve stopped improving and seeing visible results. But how does this happen—even when you’re being consistent?

Say you’re doing bicep curls several times a week with the same weight and the same number of reps. It used to be hard, but after awhile, you can do it with ease. Instead of basking in the effortlessness of the workout, bump it up! Increase the frequency and intensity of the activity, and you’ll start to see more progress. Shock your body into making changes.

Another way to avoid boredom is to spice up your fitness routine. A good exercise program doesn’t have to include an hour at the gym each day. For a new challenge, try hiking, riding a bike, playing tennis, or doing yoga. Even an hour playing outside with your kids will burn calories. Keep things interesting to keep the boredom at bay. You also might try hooking up with a "fitness buddy" to keep things entertaining. A pal can keep you motivated and challenge you to push your body.

Culprit #2: Overtraining
While some people need to increase their gym time, there comes a point when you might be working your body too hard. If you’re going to the gym on a regular basis, you’re creating a healthy, lifelong habit. But if you are going to the gym for hours each day, you might be tearing your body down too much. Muscles need recovery time to build back up. Overtraining affects the body as well at the mind. You’re probably pretty drained if your life is starting to revolve around the gym every day. The cure? Take a couple of steps back. This might mean cutting back on your workouts, or taking a week off to replenish your body and mind. After you’ve rested and recovered, come back to your workouts slowly, paying close attention to how your body responds.

Culprit #3: Diet
In all probability, you’ve heard about the calorie equation. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. But, if you’re drained during your workouts, take a good look at both sides of this equation.

You can’t focus on exercise if you’re not also mindful of what you eat. If you’re still overeating, then working out alone isn’t going to change your body. At the same time, eating a lot of the wrong foods (junk, empty calories, sugar) won’t give your body enough energy to complete an intense workout.

Water is another key to a successful workout. Drink water throughout the day on a consistent basis, but also make sure to drink extra water during your workout since you lose hydration through sweat. Water helps keep your joints moving fluidly and your muscles primed for exercising.

Culprit #4: Sleep
Intense cardio and strength training causes your muscle fibers to tear. To a certain extent, this is a good thing, because it gives them a chance to build back up, stronger and better than ever. But if you aren’t giving your body enough rest at night, then your body is going to have a difficult time recovering from workouts. Your progress might halt—or go backwards! If you’re slipping into a workout rut, examine your sleeping patterns. You should be getting seven or eight hours of sleep each night to give your body a chance to refuel and recover from the previous day’s work. If a good night’s sleep isn’t part of your daily routine, re-examine your healthy lifestyle plan.

Culprit #5: Stress
If stress is a part of your daily life, eventually you’ll become emotionally and physically drained—if you’re not there already. Signs of overstress include tight muscles, headaches, and trouble sleeping—all of which can affect your workouts.

While exercise helps relieve some stress, if your life is in overdrive, it can’t get rid of all your tension. As stress builds up, take time to get organized, breathe deeply and ask for help. Your workout routine will actually improve!