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9 ways to dig yourself out of a fitness rut

April 12th 2016 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Ayesha Muttucumaru

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Hit a workout wall? We asked a pro for her top fitness tips when it comes to breaking through it and making exercise exciting again

So you’ve made strides in becoming a fitter, healthier you, but how best to keep the fitness regime up two or three months on when sport has started to become, well, a little bit stale? Whether work, family responsibilities or money woes are responsible for your flagging fitness motivation levels, we’re here to say you’re not alone. It happens to everyone and there is hope for reigniting your excitement for exercise and seeing results again.

So how best to keep on keeping on when stress gets in the way and you find yourself in an almighty fitness rut? We teamed up with Nike and its Better For It Campaign to answer that very question. Here, Leah Kim, Nike Athlete, Global Yoga Ambassador and Master Trainer shares her top 9 tips on making sure your fitness aspirations stay right on track - no matter what life throws at them. For an extra dose of fitness motivation though, also check out Episode 7 of the new Nike Original Show Series, Margot vs Lily, where this issue is explored in greater detail. Are you #margotviking or #lilyninja? Let us know in the comments section below.

1. Rest, recalibrate and refresh

For starters: don’t panic. If your body is crying out for a ‘Time Out’ - it could be doing so for a good reason. “Firstly, don’t stress. This is so normal and happens to the best of us,” says Leah. “If you’re feeling like you’re hitting a rut, it’s okay to take a step back - this might mean a couple days of rest from exercise completely, or just trying a totally different type of workout,” she adds. “Yoga is home for me, but throughout my entire yoga life I have had times when I needed to not do a Downward Facing Dog for a while. So I would switch to more sessions with my trainer or go and take a different class like Barre or Pilates or even Barry’s Bootcamp. For me, I always go back to yoga, (luckily, it always takes me back!), but I think it’s important to change things up now and again, so your body doesn’t hit a plateau and to keep things fresh in your mind so you aren’t just going through your workout by rote.”

2. Supersize your gym squad

To prevent a break turning into a breakup, gain further strength in numbers and bulk up your resources with some dependable gym buddies. “Before those few days turn into too many days, call on the support of a friend - someone whose fitness regimen you admire or are interested in or just someone you enjoy spending time with,” recommends Leah. “They’ll be happy to pull you out of any rut. Or use the Nike+ Training Club App - it’s a ready-made personal trainer and workout buddy in your pocket and there are workouts that are just 5-6 minutes long - so no excuses there!” The ingenious NTC Dynamic Duo Workout on it also makes for an effective pick for realising inner gym squad goals, due to its recommendations of fun sets of exercises for both you and your partner in crime to do together.

3. Take it back to basics

Sometimes rewinding and reminding yourself of how your former self saw fitness at the beginning of their journey can act as the extra incentive for rediscovering your motivation mojo. “There was something about those first, early days of your workouts that kept you going,” says Leah. “Take it back to basics - a beginner yoga class or a leisurely jog perhaps. Sometimes we just feel beaten down by the pressure to do more, to go faster, to stretch deeper. There’s so much beauty in simplicity and the beginner’s mind.”

If music is your motivator, give your running tracks or workout playlist a makeover too to play alongside an easy-to-use yet comprehensive tracker such as the Nike+ Running App. “Add your favourite music - even if that means doing a yoga workout to Taylor Swift (yes, I do this sometimes…!)” says Leah. Sounds like music to our ears.

Should you be looking for some wardrobe updates to help provide an extra incentive for fitting in that workout, how about trying the following on for size...

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Nike Motion Top, £38

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Nike Free Transform Flyknit, £125

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Nike Pro Fierce – Women’s Sports Bra, £33

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Nike Legendary Engineered Swell – Women’s Training Tights, £65

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4. Put more fun into your fitness

When it comes to finding a workout regime that works for you, don’t be afraid to throw the rulebook out. “I personally feel like inspiration shouldn’t be something you need to struggle to maintain when it comes to your workouts,” says Leah. “The key is to find workouts that you genuinely enjoy doing; where you get excited knowing that you get to go to that class or go on that run or take that dance class. It should without a doubt be fun.” Speaking from personal experience she adds, “My husband absolutely loves long runs and strength training. He’s never going to be like me and want to do yoga every day - and vice versa. But we’ll both switch things up and try something different now and again. Even if it only reaffirms his love of running and my love of yoga, it brings us back with fresh energy.”

5. Try something that makes you nervous

If you get bored easily, why not kick it up a notch and push yourself that little bit further just to test the waters? In our experience, you may find that you may exceed your expectations. “I do think it’s important to try things that might make you a bit nervous, as that’s when you know you’re putting yourself out there for growth - physically and otherwise,” says Leah. “When you successfully complete whatever that new challenge may have been, your own efforts will become your inspiration to go after more. I think this is so important - making it about yourself and your own personal journey, rather than putting too much on other people. Of course we all look up to other people and that can provide us with some drive and motivation - but we’re never going to become that other person, and actually, there’s nobody more important than yourself, so make sure you’re not overlooking your own power and worth.”

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6. Celebrate your achievements

Be your own cheerleader and don’t be too hard on yourself should you stumble - getting fit isn’t easy so make sure to always big up your progress, no matter how small. There’s no such thing as a bad workout - just getting out there is an achievement in itself and worth celebrating in our opinion therefore, don’t let physical results be your sole marker of success. “It’s always nice when we can see the results of our efforts. That said, I think it’s important not to be too attached to or impatient for results and to do the work for the sake of doing the work,” says Leah. “But of course we want to know that we are progressing in some way and when we hit those markers, whatever they may be for each of us, naturally, it builds our self-confidence. We realise - we can do it, as well as wonder where next we might be able to go.”

Who wins? Watch episode 8 of Margot vs Lily here to find out

Speaking about her own personal yoga journey Leah says: “I actually had no athletic or movement background before yoga. I’m not a dancer, never played sports; I grew up feeling intimidated by other people’s physical abilities and thought that could never be me. When I started practicing yoga, what first reeled me in was the feeling of calm and quiet that stuck with me after I walked off my mat. Physically, I sucked. I couldn’t touch my toes or hold Plank and I was sore for days. I kept going back though because of the way it made me feel and somewhere along the line, I got better at the poses. They hurt less, I breathed more easily. A rite of passage was when I finally got Crow Pose. It took me a year and a half, but I eventually got there. And it was so empowering. I never thought I would be able to balance on my hands (like a bird, no less) but here I was. And if I could do it, I knew anyone could. I realised I wanted to be able to teach this stuff to other people. So you never know how a physical accomplishment can inspire your life.”

7. Keep checking in

When we’ve gotten used to a particular workout regime, we can often feel like we’re just going through the motions. It starts to lose its sparkle. However, by injecting it with a dose of mindfulness, we can often begin re-appreciating what originally drew us to that particular exercise in the first place. “We spend so much of our time checked out and checking out other people and what’s going on in their lives, so make your training or practice time just for yourself,” recommends Leah. “Where are your thoughts? How is your breath? What is this muscle doing? How does this feel in your body? Keep checking in and keep yourself in check. Inevitably you’ll sometimes get distracted and that’s fine. The key is to catch yourself and to come back to what you’re actually doing in the moment. When you’re focused, you’ll learn more, perform better, reduce the chance of injury, and just generally get more out of your efforts.”

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8. Focus on the importance of consistency

Ah, the ‘Turning point’ - the moment every person waits for when they embark on a fitness journey. How long can you expect it to take before you experience one though? “This is going to be totally personal to each individual,” says Leah. “We’re all built so uniquely, and there are so many overlapping factors at play. If I can highlight one thing though, it would be consistency. So I would set reasonable expectations for yourself, a workout schedule that you honestly think is possible to maintain and commit to it. Our bodies are so smart - our muscles hold memory so the more consistently you train, naturally the better you will become at it and then the better you’ll feel about your efforts. This will build over time, and as long as you stay consistent, you’ll get to a place in your life where you can’t remember not training regularly or not feeling good in your body. From that point, I don’t think you’ll want to go back!”

as long as you stay consistent, you’ll get to a place in your life where you can’t remember not training regularly or not feeling good in your body. From that point, I don’t think you’ll want to go back!

9. Do at least one yoga session a week

From rugby players to swimmers, men to women, yoga has becomes a permanent fixture in many an athlete’s weekly workout regime. With its benefits extending beyond the physical, it now serves as an integral part in boosting performance for a whole roster of different sports. “More and more, doctors, physical therapists, sports medicine people and the like are advising athletes to get some yoga in their training regimen,” says Leah. “Our bodies need balance. We need to let muscles rest and repair; it’s not just about always pushing to the max. If your main training is quite intense as far as challenging your muscles from a strength or endurance perspective, it just makes good sense to balance some of that out with stretching. Yoga of course isn’t just stretching though…there’s a lot of strength work, but it tends to be different from things you might see in the gym - holding Boat Pose, for example, as opposed to doing hundreds of crunches. So physically speaking, yoga can bring a different set of challenges than you’re used to.

“There’s also the breath, which is hugely important for all athletes and all humans in general. You breathe better and your body functions better. Mentally speaking, because yoga asks you to tune out everything and everyone else, and to deeply tune into yourself, you’ll find that you have more control of your mind. It will be easier to direct and maintain your focus, to keep clear thoughts, to be less emotionally reactive…in fact the number one ‘goal’ of yoga is to calm the mind and when you have a calm, controlled mind, I’m pretty sure you’ll feel stronger than you’ve ever felt before.”

Feeling inspired? Download the NTC Reach and Recharge Workout here to re-focus both body and mind.

Looking for further fitness motivation? Get inspired at nike.com/betterforit #BetterForIt and watch the final episode of Margot vs Lily here to find out who wins the bet...

Follow Ayesha on Twitter and Instagram.

Written in partnership with Nike.

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