10 Signs You Need a Workout Makeover

If you have plateaued, here are a few reasons you may not be not seeing results - and how to get back on track.


Linda Melone, CSCS for Prevention |

If you have plateaued, here are a few reasons you may not be not seeing results – and how to get back on track. – By Linda Melone, CSCS for Prevention

Shutterstock Image
Shutterstock Image

Whether you’re running to get fit, lose weight, or set a new PB, it can be all too easy to get yourself into a rut – especially once the big gains that come after starting to run have subsided.

And yet, when it comes to working out, no one is going to tell you it’s time to step things up. That means it’s up to you to know when it’s time for a change. The signs may not always be obvious, though. Miss them and you risk giving up on running altogether out of frustration, injury, or simply boredom.

Here, experts give their tips on the 10 signs that indicate it’s time for a workout makeover—and what to do next.

1. You’re Sore All the Time

Your muscles need recovery time after a hard run or too many runs back to back, otherwise soreness sets in. Professional athletes use a strategy called periodiSation, a systematic approach to training that prevents muscle soreness from overtraining, says Tom Holland, exercise physiologist. “If you’re constantly sore you’re probably not taking enough rest days and not periodiSing your workouts.”

The Fix: Follow one hard workout with two easy ones, suggests Holland.

2. You’re Bored

More than half of new exercisers quit within three to six months after starting a workout program. “It’s often simply burnout and for many different reasons,” says Kay Porter, sports psychologist and author of The Mental Athlete. “Maybe you’re doing the same thing over and over or it’s no longer challenging.”

The Fix: Switch it up by working out at different times of the day, suggests Dr. Porter. Or exercise with different people. Try a different route, or consider setting goals for yourself such as running a 10K. If you work out in a gym, try a different fitness class or challenge yourself by using machines one time and only your body weight another, for example.

3. You’re Not Seeing Results

Hitting a wall with your results may happen because you’ve maxed out your potential, says Fabio Comana, director of continuing education for the National Academy of Sports Medicine. “When you first start training you’re so far from your ‘cap’ (potential) that your body improves by leaps and bounds.” However, as you move closer towards your cap you don’t experience these same adaptations as you did in the beginning.

The Fix: Consider the possible causes, says Comana. “Are additional stressors impacting your ability to recover, for example?” Try taking a few days off and see if you notice improvements. He also suggests working with a trainer to help you push through your weak spots. And, make sure you’re not eating back all of the calories you burned.

4. You’re Gaining Weight

You’re working out really hard, but your favoUrite jeans are still feeling tighter than they should be. How is this happening when you’re burning so many kilojoules?

“Women often don’t realise that exercise can increase appetite,” says Amy Goodson, specialist in sport dietetics. “If you eat more you’ll gain weight. You shouldn’t ignore hunger cues, but some nutritional tricks can help you feel satisfied without additional kilojoules.”

The Fix: Goodson recommends:

1. Start the day with a high-fibre breakfast that includes some lean protein (e.g. cereal with milk).

2. Eat a protein and carb combination snack within 30 minutes of your workout (e.g. Greek yogurt with fruit).

3. Aim for five to six small meals a day focused on high fibre and lean protein at each.

5. You’re Skipping Workouts

Maybe it’s raining out, the gym’s too crowded, or a big work deadline is looming, but you’re finding new reasons to skip your workout like never before. Why are you looking for excuses? “Look at what’s making you dislike your workout,” says Porter. “Are people judgmental at your gym? Is your workout location inconvenient?”

The Fix: To avoid the usual excuses, make the focus of your training about something other than weight loss and fitness, says Holland. “Find a new goal and create a new reason to exercise. Join a running group. Consider raising money for a charity run, for example, which can be emotionally rewarding.”

6. You’re Too Comfortable

Running on autopilot makes exercise a no-brainer, but you’re only cheating yourself if you no longer break a sweat. “It’s not enough to just show up,” says Holland. “You’re wasting your time if you want results and you’re not going outside your comfort zone. You also cheat yourself out of the endorphin (feel-good brain chemicals) release that comes with vigorous exercise.”

The Fix: This can be difficult because you have to want to change, says psychologist Dr. Porter. “An easy way to get out of your comfort zone is by joining a group that’s doing new things.” Challenge yourself and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that will help you stick with it.

7. You Have an Injury That Won’t Heal

You ice it and rest it and your ankle still hurts when you exercise. “Chronic injuries are often from overuse or repetitive strain,” says John Higgins, MD, director of exercise physiology at a U.S Medical Centre.

The Fix: First, see a doctor to determine the cause of the pain, says Dr. Higgins. Once you’ve recovered, you’ll want to focus on efforts to make sure it doesn’t happen again. “Strengthen and stretch the muscles and tendons involved in your exercise routine to help prevent further injury.”

8. You’re Irritable

Snapping at your spouse and tossing and turning at night could be signs of overtraining, says Carol E. Torgan, exercise physiologist. “It’s most likely if you also have an elevated resting heart rate and notice a drop off in improvements with training.” Too much intensity, workout frequency or a combination of the two without sufficient rest can trigger these symptoms.

The Fix: Keeping a training diary can help you discover the problem, says Dr. Torgan. Training diaries vary in the specifics but should include categories for mental states along with sets, reps, weightlifted and specifics related to your goals. Look for free journal templates online to suit your specific goals.

9. Your Goals Have Changed

The reason you began working out may change over time and as you age. Maybe you initially wanted to lose weight and now you’re concerned about bone strength. Or you’ve been diagnosed with a health issue. “Any health-related new diagnosis, such as diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, etc., is good reason to readjust your goals,” says Pire. “Or your fitness-related goal may now be a performance-related goal, such as planning to run your fastest 5K.”

The Fix: Talk to your doctor about exercise if you’ve been diagnosed with a health issue that affects your workouts. A plan including resistance training plus impact training (jumping) was shown to maintain bone density of the spine.

10. Your Joints Hurt

Heading straight into a hard run without warming up and stretching first makes it likely you’re going to hurt yourself, says Nathan Wei, director of the Arthritis Treatment Centre in the United States. “Even if you’re accustomed to working out but you change your routine, it can cause joint pain if you’re not warmed up.”

The Fix: Always warm up with 5 to 10 minutes of stretching and light jogging, says Dr. Wei. “Stretch again after your run, focusing on the muscles you used in your workout.”

Plus, regardless of whether you’re running or cross-training, start off slowly until you understand the mechanics, says Dr. Wei. “Cross-training also helps. Don’t do one thing for an hour a day for six days a week.”

The article 10 Signs You Need A Workout Makeover originally appeared on Prevention.

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