The Best Way to Break Out of a Workout Rut

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It happens to the best of us: one week we’re killing it in the gym and earning PRs left and right, the next we can’t get off the couch. Workout ruts are about as common in fitness routines as sore muscles and they’re certainly nothing to be ashamed of. But you don’t want to hang out in one forever. After all regular exercise contributes to weight loss and increased muscular strength, as well as a healthier heart and even a decreased risk of some types of cancer. So, we need to get off the couch at least three times (ideally five) per week and fit in physical activity.

But how do we do that when we’re feeling all kinds of unmotivated? One word: accountability.

Accountability v. Motivation

Accountability is similar to motivation in that it pushes us to achieve our fitness goals, but it’s a bit more complex than that. Anyone can be motivated from time to time. Being accountable is another ball game entirely. When you’re motivated to complete workouts and stay fit, you’re essentially inspired to do so. When you’re being held accountable to complete your workouts, staying fit almost becomes a responsibility—to your physical and mental health.

It sounds a bit daunting, but it’s not. In fact, you can actually think of accountability as a way to stay motivated. But in the same way it’s challenging to keep ourselves motivated, it’s hard to stay accountable. So, how do we do it?

Find Your Why

Your “why” is your reason for exercising and leading a healthy lifestyle. It can range from wanting to finish a marathon to wanting to lower your odds of a condition or disease related to an unhealthy lifestyle. “When I want to get one of my clients out of a slump, I sit them down and really dig to find out that motivating factor for them,” says Aaptiv trainer Candice Cunningham. “I want them to think and remember why they started in the first place.”

Once you unearth your why, Cunningham suggests making sure it’s physically in front of you every day to hold you accountable. “Put a sticky note with your why written on it on your door, mirror, or in your car,” she says. “From there, I’ll help them set up a plan with small ways to hold them accountable to their why along the way.”

Find a Friend

You’ve probably heard that enlisting a workout buddy is the key to a successful fitness routine one million or so times. Well, that’s because it’s probably true. “Buddy up with someone motivational,” says Aaptiv trainer Ray Wallace. “Ideally, find someone that’s into exercising who will hold you accountable.”

Aaptiv trainer Kelly Chase agrees. “Having an accountability partner ensures you’re going to get the workout done because you’re not just failing yourself if you don’t show up, you’re failing your friend, too,” she says. Sounds harsh, but it’s true. You’re less likely to skip your workouts or stay on the couch if you have a friend waiting for you at the gym.

Plus, working out with some can simply make the experience more enjoyable. “It’s always more fun when you can sweat with someone,” says Wallace. “You can both motivate each other, give each other tips, and keep it fun.” And working out with someone can make it feel like time goes by faster, too, Chase adds.

If you can’t find someone to literally hit the gym with you, you can still ask someone to keep you accountable in other ways. “You can find someone who will actually do your workout with you or at least ask you about it and keep you accountable in that way,” says Aaptiv trainer Jessica Muenster. Daily or weekly check-ins with a close friend can work the same way as an actual workout buddy to keep you motivated and on track.

If you’re working out regularly, you’re bound to fall into a rut from time to time—and that’s completely fine. Instead of beating yourself up, enlist the help of a friend or family member who can help get you off the couch and back into your routine. Think of it as a way to merge your social life with your fitness life. What’s better than that?

Proud to partner with The Whole U for Dare to Do, Aaptiv is a fitness company that strives to the guesswork and the boredom out of exercise. Their audio-based workout classes combine the motivation of a personal trainer with the perfect playlists to turn your workouts into effective, music-driven experiences. With over 2,500 classes in-app and 50 new ones added weekly in a variety of categories, they’re committed to providing users the guidance and information they need to be successful on their fitness journey—and to actually look forward to working out.