, Newburyport, MA

March 28, 2014

Living Fit: Break through your strength training rut

Living Fit
Kate McKay

---- — Are your workouts starting to feel stale? Tired of that body pump class? Going through that same weight circuit making you feel like you’re going to scream? Are you lifting the same amount of weight every session?

Everyone who works out reaches a plateau when training. Even the most conditioned, dedicated athletes need to shake up their routines every once in a while. Here are a few suggestions to get out of that rut and reach a new level of satisfaction in the gym.

Check your stress. Workouts often become stale when we experience increased stress levels in our lives. Not getting your usual eight hours of sleep? Have the kids been sick? Helping out more with an aging parent? Stress has a direct bearing on the quality of your workout. Identify your stress, and create a plan to reduce it. Take a few extra minutes to create a healthy meal, then actually sit down and enjoy it. Try including a relaxing yoga class in your day. It is often helpful to write down what troubles you. You may find that you are handling more than you give yourself credit for, especially when you see it in black and white. Reduce your stress, and watch your workouts become more effective and more enjoyable.

Try periodization. It is not always about the amount of weight you are lifting. Change up the number of sets, repetitions and exercises you perform. Try altering the amount of time you allow between sets and the number of times you train a week. I tell my clients that they should never expect the same workout with me twice — ever. Not only would this be boring for both of us, but also a kiss of death to your training. The body continues to adapt to the load that you provide it. Changing up your workouts keeps the body responsive. I call it the shock-and-awe effect. Place demands on the body, nourish by refueling between sessions, get adequate rest and watch your body transform.

Eat right to get fit. How is your diet? Are you constantly tempted by all of the Easter candy now on the shelves? My recommendation to my clients is to eat well, or “clean” as I call it, 80 percent of the time. Eating well supplies your body with the energy it needs to fuel you through your day. When you are deciding whether to have oatmeal or a doughnut, ask yourself “which item will provide me more fuel to help me live the life I want?” Life is too short to deprive yourself of some food pleasures. Unfortunately, in our society, we have taken that good thing too far. Eat a balanced diet, enjoy small pleasures and keep that body moving. If you feel you cannot do it alone due to your eating issues, seek the help you need from a licensed nutritionist or counselor who can support you on the path toward healthy eating.

Hire a trainer. I would be remiss if I did not mention the use of a professional trainer to assist you in your fitness quest. Even trainers hire trainers! Most trainers would be more than happy to work with you even if for only one session to give you some pointers on how to change up your workouts. But don’t just hire anyone. Watch how trainers work with their clients at the gym. Set up an interview with different trainers at different facilities to see who you mesh with. Check their credentials. Hiring a trainer is a very personal decision. It is important that you trust this person and feel that they are helping you attain your fitness goals, but also that they are doing it safely.

With a few small changes, you can renew your enthusiasm for your strength training routine. I am thrilled to see and hear more of a focus in the media on not just cardiovascular exercise, but strength training, especially for women in their 40s, 50s and 60s.

Nothing makes me more excited than seeing my 70-year-old client keeping up with my 30-year-old clients. Weight training is like being your Michelangelo: No other form of exercise allows you to reshape your body quite the same way, and with such healthy bone-building results.

Make it a great day, and keep lifting!


Kate McKay, an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer and business consultant, resides in Newburyport. For more fitness tips, visit her website at Please feel free to submit any fitness and health questions to Kate at