How I'm Beating My Workout Slump (Yep, Even Trainers Have Them)
Before I became a trainer, I worked out consistently 5 days a week. I would get up early before work and I loved how it started out my day. Fitness was a big part of my life and personal training seemed like a fantastic way to share how I felt about fitness. I wanted everyone to know that WORKING OUT RULES!!!!
I started training and was learning so many cool things about weight lifting and technique. I had the time in my schedule to lift several days a week, and I got super strong and shredded. I felt like this was how I had to exercise and look if clients were going to take me seriously as a trainer. I was influenced by a lot of opinions about the validity of other methods of working out besides lifting (general opinion was that it was kinda pointless).
(Me in the early days, wanting to lift all the heavy things)
As I stuck with training, my book continued to fill (Yay! Biggest fear was having those gaping holes in my schedule). Slowly, the gaps closed. Fast forward to today, and I continue to have a full book of clients who want to see me several times a week. I am so grateful to be lucky enough that I have people who I genuinely enjoy spending time with as their trainer. Shout out to my awesome clients! We have the best conversations- from existential stuff to debates on proper etiquette for disposing of your bagged dog poo in other people's trash cans.
On the flip side, with the busy schedule comes the difficulty of fitting in my own workouts and self care into my day. A 5am wake up call does not make it conducive to those morning exercise sessions anymore! A frequent question a trainer hears is, "so, how often do you work out?". My personal numbers had slowly dwindled from 5 days a week to... none. That's right. I had lost my motivation and discipline. I would be lucky if I did anything during the week besides take walks outside and do yoga at home one day a week. My excuses for not lifting ranged from being too hungry after my shift, to being bored with gym workouts, to having too much other stuff to do during my mid-day break. As I noticed my energy and mood declining with every passing month, I kept trying to figure out what my problem was. Vitamin deficiency? Hormonal problems? Bad sleep? (Possibly a little bit of all of these, but definitely not the main culprit).
I finally deduced that I had to get out of the gym for my workouts. I craved the variety that I used to have when I was doing something different every day based on my mood that morning. I finally decided to go back to something I used to do before I became a trainer- group barre classes. I brushed off this type of exercise for so long, believing that if you weren't lifting, you were wasting your time. Well, barre that first time back completely kicked my ass. Embarrassingly so. But I had a few realizations as I emerged from that class, having been thoroughly put in my place and the notion destroyed that I would dominate that workout. Because, ummm, I'm a trainer.
After reflecting for a few weeks, here are some things I noticed about my own journey into and out of my workout slump. Maybe they will help you if you are feeling the same way!
1.) Identify your main obstacles
Mine were: gym workout burnout, lack of a consistent routine schedule, and energy levels. Oh, and excuses.
There's a fine line between genuine road blocks and making excuses for yourself, so I had to take a really hard look at what I thought was keeping me away from exercise vs. what actually was. I was definitely not making fitness a priority. If I was, I could have fit exercise in my schedule (because let's be honest, we make time for our priorities, right??) After sifting through my obstacles, my first step was getting over my idea that a workout class was stupid when I could just workout on my own for free at the gym where I worked. Clearly, I wasn't doing it, and I needed the scenery change and the variety, so I booked the barre class. There were now stakes involved- I committed to class by signing up, plus there's a late cancellation fee, making it harder to bail.
What are your obstacles? Are they literally impossible to overcome, or have you been falling back on them as excuses? I 100% understand that schedules can get balls to the wall crazy, but I promise you, where there's a will, there's a way.
2.) Realize and accept that you might go through fitness phases
I was really beating myself up for months for not just sucking it up and slinging weights after my morning shifts at the gym. The thought just sounded so dreadful to me, and I finally figured out why. I am in that environment a large chunk of the day, moving weights around for other people and coming up with creative workouts for them. By the time 11am rolled around, I didn't want to pick up another weight or think of a lifting routine.
The energy at the gym is very "yang"- loud music, lots of people, high energy, and a lot of talking. My inner introvert was screaming for "yin" activities to bring the energy more in balance. I just wanted to come home and do yoga, but I felt like that wasn't challenging enough for me. I was scared of getting weak and "soft".
I had to get over that. By accepting the fact that I might just be in a different fitness phase right now, giving my body what it needs physically and mentally, and focusing more on relieving stress than getting swole, it was easier to enjoy my less intense workouts and stop beating myself up about not working harder.
Maybe you have always been a runner but for some reason you just can't get back into it. It's okay! You might come back to it later. Maybe your body and mind need a different physical outlet. Are you bored at work and need to release pent up energy and competition? Maybe you can become one of those cult-y Crossfitters, or you need a really high intensity spin class.
Remember Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite? He was a middle aged man obsessed with his high school football career. Don't be Uncle Rico and keep yourself from trying something new and different because you feel like you "should" be into activities from your past, or you "should" be as in shape as you used to be when you used to do X,Y,Z. Thank God high school is over, and you might just have to say RIP to some old fitness phases in order to make way for the new.
3.) Don't forget- working out will make you feel GOOD!
Guys, I literally forgot this. I kept having this "you should work out" cloud hanging over my head, getting heavier and heavier each time I didn't do it. Then I booked that first class and came out remembering why I loved fitness so much in the first place. The heart rate increase, the pushing yourself, the sweat, the sense of accomplishment, the endorphin release, the elevated mood. HELLOOOO, my job is to get people to work out and continue to work out, and I had let all these benefits completely fly off of my radar for myself. Palm to forehead moment. Ask yourself the genuine question of "what will make me feel good today?" Maybe you need to hit the gym and do 100 ball slams because your boss or a co-worker is an idiot and you need to imagine that the ball is their head. Maybe it will feel good for you to quiet your mind with some yoga and meditation. Maybe you really want to remember your glory days on the rowing team and you are craving getting back in that seat. Maybe you need nature time and want to speed walk up some hills or on a trail. Fitness shouldn't be a punishment resulting from a cookie binge. It really should make you feel good, so don't forget that when you are taking steps to get out of your slump!
Currently, I am doing a lot better with my workout routine. I am using ClassPass to try different classes in my area that work with my weird, trainer schedule. I am loving the variety and am finding classes that I keep returning to again and again. I am accepting that my body might not look the same way it did when I was lifting 4 days a week, and that's okay! (although I still might go back in my phone and gaze wistfully at pictures of my arms from 2 years ago).
What about you? Are you killing the workout game or are you in the slump of all slumps? Or somewhere in between? Let me know in the comments below, and I hope maybe one or two things I said might help you find your fitness sweet spot!