Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • July 2017
Written by 

Get out of your workout rut

Do you ever feel that you are simply “stuck” in your workouts? Maybe you’ve been focusing on losing 15 pounds and you saw results in the first couple of weeks, but now you’ve sort of leveled out. Or perhaps you are training for a competitive event in a few months, but your workouts seem to be growing stagnant — you aren’t getting any faster and you tend to feel burdened by the effort rather than energized. Simply trying harder and doing more hasn’t worked. Ever wonder why?

In their book “The Plateau Effect,” authors Bob Sullivan and Hugh Thompson have combined their analytical expertise to provide us (“us” being the regular people who don’t solve differential equations for fun!) with an understanding that our bodies and minds are prone to falling into frustrating ruts. Though everyone experiences these ruts from time to time, to get out of them it helps to understand a little about how we are wired. The book provides thought-provoking examples, stories and case studies and is in itself a treasure trove of insight, but it’s their critical point that really hits home — “just because you do something that works doesn’t mean doing more of it will work even better.” Whether you end up reading their book or not, this concept will help you realize that you have to change things up in order to get out of your workout rut. Here are a couple of suggestions.

Think movement, not muscle

Whether you are an athlete or just trying to stay in shape, to get the most out of your training sessions try focusing on the development of movements instead of muscles. Muscles do not work in isolation. They work synergistically, with multiple muscle groups, to create the desired movement. Think about your ability to pick up your toddler-aged children or grandchildren. This requires an integration of many muscle groups. You could spend countless hours at the gym training each muscle in isolation by doing bicep curls and tricep extensions, but we aren’t Frankensteins made up of a hodge-podge of leftover parts. Instead, try including full-body movements in your workouts like squats, kettlebell swings, pushups and rows. Not only will this save you a lot of time at the gym, but you will be training your body to function in the ways it was designed. On this note, here’s some advice from the authors of the book:

“Running on a treadmill can’t hold a candle to running on a golf course. Bench press exercises on a universal gym don’t do nearly as much as lifting free weights. And that stomach-crunch rolly thing isn’t worth the $9.95 shipping and handling you paid for it. Why? Because all these gadgets work to isolate individual muscle groups. That’s fine if you want one very strong muscle in your life. But if you want to be healthy, you have to play outside. You have to let your body struggle with all the variety, surprise and diversity that nature affords.”

Do Less, not more (Seriously!)

I have a non-running friend who told me about a book he heard about called Run Less, Run Faster and immediately commented that, based on that theory (and the fact he never runs), he should be winning his age group every time. Though I laughed at his joke, it does seem counterintuitive to some extent. Sometimes you need to do less of something to benefit more. Steady state cardio (keeping a steady pace jogging or on the elliptical machine) will technically burn more fat during the exercise compared to higher intensity movements like kettlebell swings or squats. However, the fat burn will drop back to normal levels as soon as the steady state cardio has been completed. On the flip side, the high intensity effort of the kettlebell swing creates a metabolic effect in the body that keeps your metabolism heightened for a longer period post-exercise, resulting in an overall greater fat burn.

If you have fallen into a workout rut, it’s probably because your body has gotten numb to its current routine and it’s not responding anymore. The time to change things up is NOW. Try something new. Sign up for the class you’ve been hearing about. Meet with a coach to develop a new plan for meeting your goal. Nike may have created a catchy slogan with “Just Do It” but when you consider the science behind “The Plateau Effect” perhaps “Do Different” would be more helpful in staying motivated. 

Derek Lahti

Derek Lahti has his Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and is a certified Kettlebell instructor, mobility and functional movement specialist. He is the owner and head coach of Primal Methods at 5530 Neubert Road in Appleton. Coach Derek helps people improve their health through fitness, nutrition and lifestyle coaching all in a supportive atmosphere where high five’s among friends are the norm. For more information, visit or contact Coach Derek at [email protected] or 920-960-9125.

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