Regardless of your fitness goals, it can be difficult to stick to a solid workout routine. As time goes on, you might find some workouts a bit repetitive, which makes it all too easy to lose steam. In other words: You may find yourself in an exercise rut.
How do you get excited about moving again? We thought there was no one better to ask than Samia Akbar, global marketing manager at New Balance and the fastest-known American-born Black female marathoner. "Running is all about consistency. It's a repetitive exercise," she says on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, so it's crucial to find ways to generate fresh energy. Below, Akbar shares her tips to fall in love (again) with your workout routine:
1. Set a specific goal.
According to Akbar, having a specific goal in mind can help you stay consistent. "You want to work backward from that goal," she explains. For example, if you set a goal to get out and run three times a week, you'll naturally dedicate some time to planning how and when you're going to get moving. "Am I going to run with somebody once a week? Am I going to join a group of people that's regularly meeting up near my house to make sure that I can kind of stay consistent?" she offers. It's all about preparing beforehand so that all you have to do in the moment is get up and go.
Yes, staying consistent with your goals is important, but Akbar also suggests giving yourself permission to change course based on how you're feeling on a given day. Being too rigid with your schedule often backfires, because if one day doesn't go exactly as planned, you may feel like there's no point in hitting the pavement or heading to the gym at all. "If you plan to run for 30 minutes, and 10 minutes is all you can muster for the day, that should be it," Akbar says. "You should stop and give yourself a break."
2. Rely on friends.
When you know that there's someone waiting for you to head to the gym or go for a run, you're way more likely to attend. (It's a concept positive psychiatrist Samantha Boardman, M.D., refers to as the "flake factor.") One 2015 study even found that finding a new exercise companion increased the amount of exercise people took—with an even bigger increase if that new partner was emotionally supportive.
You don't even have to converse with anyone if you'd rather use that time to clear your own head. Simply being around other people can help motivate you to get moving. "[It's about] the togetherness piece, if there's someone that you love and trust or just really want to see," says Akbar. "You don't even have to talk… Just knowing that you have this designated time to go and meet them can help get you out the door."
3. Move a little bit every day.
We just discussed the importance of letting your body rest, if that's what you need at that moment. However, Akbar recommends working out every day if you can—especially if you have a specific fitness goal in mind. Skipping days can become a slippery slope: One day easily turns to two, which turns to three, and so on. "[It's better to] alter what you're doing each day than to just miss days," Akbar notes. "It's more important to stay consistent and take good care of yourself, your rest, your hydration…" So rather than skipping the workout entirely, perhaps you practice a few minutes of mindful movement to get your heart pumping. That way, you can give your body the rest it needs without feeling off schedule.
Oftentimes, starting with just a few minutes of movement can help motivate you to keep going in the long run. "If you look at your watch and you're like, 'OK, I'm just going to trudge along for the first five minutes, seven minutes, 10 minutes of this run…whatever that magic time limit is for you, you get going and you feel like you can do whatever you set out to do," Akbar says. For many, it's starting the workout that can feel like a chore, but once you get into a flow state, it's easy to keep up the pace.
It can be difficult to overcome an exercise rut, especially if you're training for a specific goal (like, say, a marathon). With Akbar's tips, you can feel excited about your workouts again—soon you'll be itching to get up and go.