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6 Major Red Flags You Need a New Exercise Routine, Trainers Say

Plus, how to adjust your workouts to better reach your goals.

If you regularly work out, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back. It's not always easy to make the time, especially when life gets busy. But here's the thing: Just 'cause you're fitting in exercise doesn't necessarily mean you're getting all you can out of your workouts. There's also a chance your routine is leaving you susceptible to injury or putting your health at risk in other ways.

Not sure if your workouts are leading you down the right path? We linked up with three top-notch personal trainers to help you make a judgment call. While there are definitely countless signs you may benefit from changing up your exercise routine, these six are the big red flags it's time to try something new.

If any of these warning signs that you need a new workout routine feel familiar to you, consider checking in with a trainer or your doctor for tips on how you can adjust your workouts to get more out of every rep, stride, and stretch. And for more, check out these 4 Exercises to Do Every Morning for a Flatter Stomach.

Red flag #1: You constantly feel sluggish

Man sitting on bed holding his head.

Working out should energize you, enhance your life, and make you feel ready to take on the day. So, if your routine is leaving you drained, something needs to change, explains Zoe Schwartz of the Brooklyn-based personal and group training company, Fitness by Zoe.

You may feel run down because you're trying to fit in workouts in the morning but you're really not a morning person. Or maybe the timing of your workouts doesn't allow you to refuel properly, explains Schwartz. Pause and reflect on your goals and how you can better reach them. Schwartz says it may pay to meet with a personal trainer to see if they can help you identify what's going on. From there, you can focus on making small changes. "You may find that a tweak in what you're doing and what time of day you're doing it will make a world of difference," Schwartz adds.

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Red flag #2: You were recently injured

Female runner suffering with pain on sports running knee injury

Tweaked your ankle? Threw out your back? Don't just take a few days off and go back to your regular routine. There's a good chance you may need to change up some elements of your workout to give your body time to heal.

"If the injury is somewhat serious, I always recommend working with a physical therapist and a trainer so we can work together and get you back to doing what you love," says Christine Torde, CPT, a trainer at Body Space Fitness in Manhattan. "Your program might have to be regressed a bit. For example, if you were doing barbell deadlifts and injured your back doing something outside the gym, I may recommend switching to a kettlebell or sandbag deadlift. This allows you to keep the hinge movement pattern, but make sure you are properly loading throughout the exercise."

Something else to keep in mind: You shouldn't be experiencing the same injuries over and over again. For example, if you have a shoulder or calf issue that just won't quit, it's definitely time to get help from a professional. "We can help you adjust your exercise routine, teach you ways to overcome and prevent these injuries in the future, or even let you know if could benefit from seeing a sports medicine doctor," Torde says.

Related: One Secret Effect of Consistent Exercise, New Study Says

Red flag #3: You dread your workouts

woman walking on treadmill unhappy

You should work out because it's good for you, yes. But more than anything, you should do it because it's fun and you enjoy it! So, if your workouts often leave you feeling blah or questioning your self-worth, that's a pretty good sign something should change, says Anthony Crouchelli, CSFC, the founder of The .1 Method. "Sometimes workouts cause more harm than good to our mental space, and when that happens, I often remind clients that the beauty of fitness is that there is a ton of different options out there for everyone."

Schwartz agrees and notes it may take some time to discover what you're personally into—and that's OK. "There's a lot to explore: weight lifting, yoga, group fitness classes, hiking, dancing, pilates, recreational sports leagues. Even within any of these domains, there's a lot of things you can try. Weight lifting could be dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbell training, for example. The best way to find what you love is to try new activities with an open mind and find what feels good."

Related: Doing This While Walking Burns Twice as Many Calories, New Study Says

Red flag #4: You're in pain after you break a sweat


It's one thing to feel sore after a tough workout. It's another to constantly push through pain, or consistently deal with things not feeling quite right after your workouts. "I've had countless clients who've ignored their pain and as a result, have spent more funds and time recovering from injuries than working towards their fitness goals," says Crouchelli. "The major thing to remember is that workouts can be 'tough,' but there is a huge difference between hard workouts and ones that hurt you."

To stave off pain, Crouchelli recommends adding some different types of movement to your routine to see if something else works better for your body. If yoga always makes you feel crummy, for example, try a restorative foam rolling class or try going for a run instead. And if trial and error don't cut it, it's never a bad idea to check in with a trainer to get some professional advice.

Related: Turns Out, Yoga Can Help You Lose Weight, Says Science

Red flag #5: You're not reaching your goals

Woman wiping sweat from forehead after a heavy training.

According to Schwartz, it takes about six to eight weeks to start moving the needle toward a fitness goal. That holds true whether it's performance-, health-, or aesthetic-based. "Your goal might be a change to your BMI, improve your plank hold or mile run time, or up your resistance load," says Schwartz. "There are a lot of ways to measure success." That said, if you're not seeing any progress, it's time to check in with a pro to get some tips or a plan tailored to your exact goals.

Red flag #6: Your routine is mostly cardio

man running on a treadmill at home

"Don't get me wrong, we all need cardio, we need to work the heart," says Torde. "But if someone isn't doing any strength training, this is a red flag to me as a trainer. The perfect formula I tell my clients is three or four days of resistance training, and one or two days of cardio."

Torde says strength training helps lower body fat, makes bones stronger, improves confidence, and can even help you improve your cardio game. "I have some marathon clients right now and when they added strength training in this summer with me, they PR'ed their race and how they felt post-race was drastically improved from previous marathons."

For more, check out Slim Down and Get Toned With This 20-Minute Workout.

Dana Leigh Smith
Dana has written for Women's Health, Prevention, Reader's Digest, and countless other publications. Read more about Dana Leigh