Feeling stuck in your current fitness routine? Trainer & Instructor Shannon Kronstadt weighs in on her fitness journey with tips on how to get back on your A-game!
Have you ever felt stuck in a rut? Maybe it involved a relationship, a job, or even your ability to be creative. What about a fitness rut? Perhaps you have fallen out of your routine and can’t find a way back in, you are sick of completing the same workouts day in and day out, or you doubt your ability to reach a goal and lose focus. Whatever the reason may be, finding yourself in this state never elicits a warm and fuzzy feeling. Rather, you become bored and unproductive, which can ultimately lead to unhappiness. At this stage, you have two choices: continue to follow these destructive patterns, or make a change. I hope you always choose the latter!
As a personal trainer, I have experienced all of the obstacles mentioned above throughout my own fitness journey. No one is exempt from hardship or failure- even experts in their respective fields fall down from time to time. My biggest challenge arose after I decided to stop training for a bikini fitness competition. Last summer, I followed a strict diet and exercise regimen for four consecutive months in order to achieve a very specific, “stage-ready” physique. During this time, I watched my body change rapidly, and quite honestly, the results were addicting. Aesthetically, I certainly looked like I was in the best shape of my life, but there was one problem: my physical and mental health were declining.
After weeks of contemplation, I decided to put my health and well-being first and stopped training.
I worried about feeling like a failure, but knew that I made the best possible decision at the time. For the first week, I felt relieved, but what followed was a year of frustration, a distorted view of my body, and a detrimental relationship to food and exercise. I stopped working out completely for several months, started to overeat, and felt an innumerable amount of guilt about all of it. I hated my body, one that was once so lean and defined, unable to handle the fact that I gained some fat. I would try to get back on track and fail countless times, thinking the only way to get the body I wanted was by way of my competition program, but I was unwilling to do that again. I felt completely discouraged.
Although I had a great desire to change, that did not make the truth any easier to swallow: change is HARD. I knew I had to put the work in, but I felt so unmotivated and unsure of where to start. Sound familiar? With the help of some amazing coworkers as well as support from my family and closest friends, I was able to find ways to slowly climb out of my own fitness rut and obtain some long-awaited peace and clarity. Is everything perfect now? Far from it. However, I am learning to reject the idea that I have to be some type of unflawed machine. I am human. I am allowed to make mistakes, to abandon perfection, and guess what? So are you.
If you are feeling stuck in your own fitness rut, give some of the following suggestions a try, but remember: don’t make yourself crazy. Seriously, it sucks the fun out of it!
Be patient, be consistent, be forgiving, and you will get there:
Discuss, plan, act.
Talk about your predicament and your feelings on it with people you trust. You may receive some valuable feedback and encouragement that will inspire you to spring into action. Brainstorm ideas for a workout routine, write them down, then test them out! If something does not work for you, make some adjustments to your plan until you find what does. Nothing is set in stone!
Find a trustworthy individual who will hold you accountable.
What really helped me was turning to one of my coworkers for some guidance. I told her what I wanted to achieve, but also admitted I was lacking accountability. Together we determined that weekly measurements, bi-weekly progress pictures, and email “check-ins” would be the best way to keep me on track. Plus, having someone cheering you on is incredibly empowering. He or she should want you to succeed, so make sure this person, whether a parent, friend, spouse, trainer, etc, is serious about your goals!
Start slowly and work up.
You do not have to begin a hard-hitting exercise regimen right off the bat, especially if you haven’t been working out on a consistent basis. Start out by training a few days a week, see how you feel, and then gradually increase your frequency from there. If you start out doing too much, your body will burn out quickly or you could potentially injure yourself, which can be discouraging. Remember, fitness is not a race. If you can handle 5-6 days a week immediately, that’s great, but if not, that’s perfectly okay too.
Try new forms of exercise/mix it up.
A great way to overcome a fitness rut is to try something new! These days, there are so many exercise methods out there, it is difficult to feel like you’ve tried them all because, chances are, you probably haven’t. Is there a dance class you’ve been eyeing for some time? Go try it out. Maybe you’ve always been interested in kickboxing, which is an awesome full-body workout with great cardiovascular benefits. Or, better yet, take a class at the PE Club! Doing something your body isn’t used to on a regular basis is a great way to keep it guessing and promote change. Just make sure you always do your research, especially when it comes to new exercise trends. Sometimes the coolest workout isn’t necessarily the safest.
Make it a social thing.
Some people prefer to work out alone, but others thrive in group settings. Next time you decide to book a class after work, contact some of your friends beforehand and see if they’d like to join you. You can keep each other motivated throughout the workout and afterwards, maybe head to someone’s apartment and cook a delicious dinner together! Or, plan a small group workout that can be done at home, then head to one of the PE Club’s favorite healthy restaurants on the Upper East Side.
Track your own progress.
Sometimes we work out for several days, which turns into several weeks, but if we’re not seeing any major changes, we feel like we’re not getting anywhere. Have you ever tried writing your progress down? Maybe you’re not seeing a big difference in your physical appearance, but you’re becoming significantly stronger week after week. Progress can be measured in many ways, so make sure you’re taking several aspects into consideration. Consistency is huge for many people, so if you’ve gone from working out once every two weeks to three times a week on a regular basis, that’s great progress right there! And remember, change takes TIME.
You don’t have to do what everyone else is doing- It's easy to get caught up in the success of other people, especially with the prevalence of social media.
People tend to preach about what you need to do in order to look and feel a certain way, and while SOME of that is based on careful research, a lot of it is pure opinion, or simply what has worked for that particular person. Try to avoid becoming overwhelmed by someone else's routine because there is a chance that same routine isn't what's best for you! Focus your energy towards finding something that is manageable but also keeps you challenged, but on YOUR terms. I hope you cultivate a relationship to fitness that makes you feel powerful, but you can't do that if you're constantly comparing yourself to others. Most of the time, you have a say in what type of content you view, so if it makes you unhappy, don't subject yourself to it.
*Please keep in mind that my own competition prep experience is not indicative of all experiences. I know many competitors who thoroughly enjoy the process and have found routines that work perfectly well for them.