Unlike fashion faux pas, sex slumps, and getting something stuck in your teeth, when it comes to working out, no one is going to step in and tell you when it's time to step 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 your workout 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 Always Sore
Your muscles need recovery time or soreness sets in with back-to-back workouts. Professional athletes use a strategy called periodization, a systematic approach to training that prevents muscle soreness from overtraining, says Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, exercise physiologist and author of The 12-Week Triathlete (Fair Winds Press, 2011). "If you're constantly sore you're probably not taking enough rest days and not periodizing your workouts."
Makeover approach: Follow one hard workout with two easy ones, suggests Holland. If you're training for a marathon or sport, consider working with a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) to design a periodization program for you.
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2. You're Bored
More than half of new exercisers quit within 3 to 6 months after starting a workout program, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). "It's often simply burnout and for many different reasons," says Kay Porter, PhD, sports psychologist and author of The Mental Athlete (Human Kinetics, 2003). "Maybe you're doing the same thing over and over or it's no longer challenging."
Makeover approach: Switch it up by working out at different times of the day, suggests Dr. Porter. Or exercise with different people. If you're a runner, 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 genetic potential, says Fabio Comana, MA, MS, CSCS, 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.
Makeover approach: 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. Consider working with a trainer to help you push through your weak spots, suggests Comana. And, make sure you're not eating back all of the calories you burned.