How to break out of an exercise rut

How to break out of an exercise rut

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SALT LAKE CITY — When I find something I love I tend to go overboard.

A few months ago I took my 8-year-old daughter to see a Cirque du Soleil show featuring the music of Michael Jackson. I was so excited to take her because I was 8 years old when I fell in love with the King of Pop.

My room was wallpapered with his pictures. We played “Thriller” again and again until I knew every “hee-hee, whoo!” of every song. I memorized the “Beat It” dance moves. My brother and I rented “The Making of Thriller” video every Saturday from the local video store.

I was hoping my own kids would fall in love with “Man in the Mirror” and “Billie Jean” the way I had. They did.

In fact, they fell in love with him to the point where they, too, knew every “hee, hee, whoo!” and repeated it over and over. In the car. In the bath. In the kitchen. On the way to school. At the library. Yes, even at church.


It was too much. After years of loving the music, I have reached Michael Jackson burn out.

Burn out is nothing new to athletes, whether elite or weekend warriors. If you’re a runner, cyclist, swimmer or faithful gym-goer, there will most likely come a time when motivation starts to lag. The alarm goes off and instead of jumping for joy at the thought of another workout, you slap the snooze button over and over until those you live with want to slap you back.

The activity that once brought you happiness and made you giddy as a school girl now makes you grimace and hide under the covers. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but at some point the excitement starts to fade.

Rather than give up and relegate yourself to a life of corn chips and “The Real Housewives of Boise,” here are a few tips to drag yourself out of that rut and find the joy in exercise again. While I specifically mention running in many of these tips, they can apply to any form of exercise.

First, run a different route. A simple change in scenery can often be enough of a boost to keep you running. Something as simple as running your normal route backward might make things more interesting. Find a new trail or neighborhood and go explore. You might be surprised to see what’s been right around the corner.

Second, assign yourself a goal. This could be a race you want to train for, a tough hill you want to conquer, a weight loss goal, or any other significant achievement that requires a fair amount of effort, but is attainable.

The activity that once brought you happiness and made you giddy as a school girl now makes you grimace and hide under the covers.

Third, find some like-minded friends. I do most of my runs alone. Occasionally, the stars align and I am able to run with friends. No matter how tired or burned out I am, I always enjoy these runs. Time goes by much faster when both words and feet fly.

Fourth, change your purpose. Sometimes we become so focused on training that we over-train. Every run or ride becomes a race. We lose the kid inside. Let go and have fun. Lose the gear. Let go of tracking your pace and just enjoy.

Fifth, cross-train. Switch up the routine. If you are a mountain biker, try road biking. If you’ve dedicated your life to the road, see if trail running is a better fit. Even better, switch things up entirely. If you normally cycle, try swimming. If running is your drug of choice, try a Zumba class. In the process you may unearth a secret passion.

Sixth, take a break. That’s right. If you find yourself dreading what you’re doing, don’t do it. I’m not saying to hang up your running shoes forever, but sometimes too much of a good thing is just too much. Absence can make the heart grow fonder and sometimes those legs simply need a rest. The body won’t fall apart with a few days of rest and relaxation.

Rest is an essential part of overall health that is often neglected. Burn out is the body’s way of saying, “Back off.” I, for one, plan on taking my own break this next week.

For the first time ever, I am taking a break that is not imposed by injury. I’m tired. I find myself dreading my runs. Even the lure of new shoes isn’t enough to get me out the door. I need this break. I’m not going to beat myself up over skipping my runs for the next few days because I’m learning that proper recovery makes us better.

Don’t keep playing the same song over and over hoping you’ll fall back in love with it again. Change the station or turn down the volume all together and before you know it, you’ll be back dancing better than ever.

Kim Cowart is a wife, mother, 24-Hour Fitness instructor and marathoner whose kids are excited that this year's vacation doesn't involve race expos and tapers. Read more of her work on the Deseret News blog, Reasons to Run.

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Kimberly Cowart


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