How to Train When You're Bored
You’ve been plugging away at the same routine for months. While results came fast at first, things are getting stale. You’re not getting the same pump you used to, your gains have plateaued, and going to the gym just isn’t that much fun. You still love training, but right now, you’re bored.
If you’ve been training for even a couple of years, the above scenario probably sounds familiar. As much as we all love to hit the iron, not every session can be great, and there are going to be stretches of time when you’re just going through the motions. Still, there are plenty of ways you can switch things up to remove that staleness and get your gains back on track. Here are a few tips on restructuring your training when you’re bored, burnt out and need a change.
Is More Variation Always Good?
Let’s get one thing out of the way first. I’m not saying you need to “keep your body guessing” by constantly switching up your routine, or by never performing the same workout twice. The only way to reliably improve your physique is to measurably improve your performance in the gym. To do that, you have to be consistent enough with your workouts to measure a change from one week to the next.
Train “instinctively?” Do “what your body tells you to do?” If you followed those rules, you’d never do anything effective. The type of training that really changes your body is the kind that you probably don’t “feel” like doing. That said, there are definitely ways you can switch things up to make training fun, exciting, and effective once again.
If your training has gone flat, the answer isn't to change everything, but just a few things. [Photo credit: Lance Goyke on Flickr | CC BY 2.0]
Change Your Focus
Have you been grinding away at the same goal for more than a few months? Fat loss, muscle building, strength, conditioning – any one of those goals is great to zero in on, but you’ll eventually stagnate if that’s all you ever do. Your body adapts to a certain type of training stimulus, and once it does, you’ll just start spinning your wheels.
So if you’ve been focusing on size for a while, switch gears toward building strength. If you’ve been dieting for what seems like forever, return to maintenance calories for a month or two and focus on pushing your training weights back up to where they were. And if you’re feeling a little too fat, out of breath, and not very “athletic,” it can’t hurt to focus on sprints, agility drills and even slow cardio for a few weeks while putting the heavy work on the back burner.
Change Your Movements
I don’t think beginner or intermediate athletes should be switching their exercises every week. However, if you’ve been using the same small set of movements for the last few months, it’s almost certainly time for a change.
For instance, if you’ve started every workout for the last few months with back squats, switch to front squats for a while, or make your stance wider or narrower. The variation doesn’t need to be huge, but it does need to be different enough that you have to learn a new motor pattern and work your way up in weight. Whatever variations you choose, stick with them for at least a couple of months to really reap their benefits, before you switch back to your old exercises.
Change Your Rep Ranges
Do you always lift “heavy,” in the 4-5 rep range? Or are you more of a higher-rep guy, usually sticking to 10-12 reps per set? Either way, you’ll eventually need to change things up. Higher reps are generally better for building muscle, and lower reps and heavier weights are king for building strength. If you’re going to change your focus, you’re going to need to change your rep range and weights accordingly.
When you switch from one rep range to another, remember that your body will have different metabolic demands. You won’t be able to put away as much food doing lower-rep, heavier work as you can when you’re doing higher volume workouts. Just as you can’t train for maximum size gains all year ‘round, you shouldn’t eat like you’re bulking for twelve months of the year. You’ll set yourself up for maximum long-term success by programming your training and your diet to different phases through the year.
Change Your Split or Frequency
Switching up your split offers two big benefits. First, it’s psychologically different. Keeping the same schedule every week is going to get boring. Even if the physiological processes aren’t dramatically different, just changing the order or arrangement of your weekly routine can make your whole training program seem new and exciting again.
The other big benefit of changing your split is a change in frequency. Let’s say you’re currently hitting each muscle super hard once per week. If you switch to a higher-frequency, lower-volume approach, you’re probably going to grow just from the stimulus of greater frequency. Likewise, if you currently train each muscle two or three times per week with low or moderate volume, switching to a routine where you absolutely annihilate each muscle once a week will have similar results.
Results – They’re Never Boring
Whatever changes you you make, stay focused on what really counts – results. You’re in this to build muscle, burn fat, gain strength, and improve your physique, and making progress towards those goals almost never gets old. If you aren't making progress, change a variable or two and see if the results start rolling again. Keep your eye on the prize, and you’ll keep the passion for training alive.
If you're stuck on a training plateau, maybe it's time to reevaluate your program:
Coaches: Are your programs written for your athletes, or yourself?