Ever get sick of hearing the same advice about how to break out of a fitness rut? I get ya. Or maybe you have no idea you’re even in a rut. So let’s see how you answer this question: Are you completely bored with exercise? If you answered that in any way other than a resounding ‘NO,’ you’re a nut in a rut.
I feel equipped to call you that because I too have been that nut. So rather than tell you all the ordinary ways to break out of it (which, for the record, are good approaches too), I’m going to give you the list of moves I revisit when I’m in need of a solid butt-kicking and motivational slap in the face. Or to put it more gently, a reminder to mix things up.
My clients will tell you how much I love treadmill lunges. They’re a great way to mix up your circuit or strength workout. My favorite time to do them, however, is in the middle of a treadmill cardio session. If I need a mental break from running or hill walking I’ll slow the treadmill way down to 1.0 – 1.3 mph and lunge for two to four minutes before resuming my workout. Not only will your quads burn, you’ll also burn more calories AFTER your workout because of the metabolic boost you’re giving your muscles.
Psst – Don’t hold on to the handrails, that’s cheating. If you feel like you have to hold on to something it probably means you just need to slow the speed down.
If you’re thinking you have to be an athlete to pull off box jumps, you’re mistaken. I’m not talking college football training height (unless you’re game for that), I’m talking about 12″ to 24″ box jumps. Stand in front of the box, use your arms to jump up as high as you can and land on the box in a squat position. Step back off the box and repeat, as fast as possible, for either a certain number of reps or for time. I like to place box jumps in my circuit workouts to mix up the intensity, so I’ll usually do them for 30 seconds or 20 reps depending on my workout. I’m always sore after these. As in, it-hurts-to-stand-up-from-the-toilet sore. I am completely aware that this is a strange thing to be proud of. That just goes to say I must be in the right industry.
Rolling Plank Leg Lifts
Most of you reading this are going to get to this point and decide I’m a freak of nature and I must be joking if I think you’re going to pull this off. You will say to yourself there’s no way in hell you’re trying this move. Just suck it up and do it! Yes, this looks ridiculously hard and yes, it’s incredibly awkward and challenging at first. But here’s the thing: It’s mostly a coordination issue and once you get that down, these cease to suck so bad. Here’s another thing: You only need to do a few to feel incredibly accomplished.
I wasn’t able to snap a photo of myself demo’ing this one for you. Instead, I found some still video shots (from fitnessblender.com) that I hope will work. I had to throw out some quality standards when posting these, so please humor me.
Essentially you start in a high plank, roll onto one arm to face the side and then keep rolling until your whole body is facing up, looking at the ceiling (but keep your hips off the floor). Roll to the other arm, all the way back into high plank and lift one leg straight back behind you. Repeat the other direction and with the opposite leg.
If you’re a woman and you’re thinking that lifting heavy weights will make you bulky, you’re wrong. I’m not saying you should always lift heavy but you should definitely consider doing it once in a while to change things up. Women just don’t have the muscle structure men do to make bulky muscles. With that said, one of my favorite ways to lift heavy is by doing pyramid sets.
You can play with pyramid sets a bit, but what I like to do most often is start with a lighter set of dumbbells – let’s say 8lbs – and do a high number of reps – let’s say 20. Let’s also say I’m doing bicep curls. The next time I come back to those bicep curls I’m going to pick up a heavier weight – let’s say 12lbs – and do a lower number of reps – let’s say 15. The third set I’m going to pick up an even heavier weight – let’s say 15lbs – and do an even lower number of reps – let’s say 10. You can either keep moving down until you’re absolutely fatigued or you can stop there. Or maybe you want to do a reverse pyramid and start with the heavier weights and lower reps. Any way you do it, pyramid sets are a fun way to mix up your strength training routine (and give you that sore feeling again).
It’s pretty common to see people at the gym resting for a minute or two before they move on to the next machine or free weight exercise. I’m not saying anyone’s doing anything wrong since everyone has different goals, but one thing I like to do in my workouts is move as quickly as possible between exercises. I set a timer and only allow 10 seconds between moves, which makes me sweat and challenges my body to keep up. Try going from squats to jumping jacks to lunges with only 10 seconds between each move, for instance.
The Element of Surprise
Try this: Set a bunch of alarms on your phone so they are anywhere from 20 seconds to 2 minutes apart. Start your workout. Every time your alarm goes off, stop whatever you’re doing and immediately do something else, like 30 seconds of jumping jacks or 10 squat hops or 20 crunches – whatever you decide the element of surprise will be, do it. Resume your workout and every time an alarm goes off you’ll stop immediately again to do the “surprise” exercise. If I’m doing a 30-minute workout I’ll typically set about 10 alarms to surprise me. This is a fun one to do when you’re really not motivated to do a traditional workout or when you really need to shake things up.
This post brought to you by Trainer Luke, who’s preferred way of kicking his client’s butt is by sitting on her anytime she does crunches, planks and pushups.