workout breakup
Even good things sometimes have to end

A few years back I belonged to a fitness ambassador program. One of my fellow ambassadors was offering a free 3-month trial of his online fitness program. The program entailed a personalized workout plan, contact via email with your trainer, and customization based on needs.

As a runner who dabbled in spin class, I didn’t have a solid strength training program. I had tried it in the past, but never had a solid plan. This online program seemed like a great opportunity to try something new. I loved the concept of flexible workouts – I wouldn’t be constrained to gym hours or what equipment was available, or, quite honestly, the fear of looking clueless in a gym. So, I signed up to try it out.

After my 3-month free trial, I realized I was consistently working out. I felt good, and I was focused. I was scheduling workouts in my planner, and I could see progress. Can you say biceps formation?!

The big commitment

In a conversation with my trainer, I was offered a steeply discounted rate to continue training. The reason I’d never worked with a personal trainer before was the cos, so this seemed like a dream come true. I agreed to continue. Why did I love it so much?

  • Flexibility. As I stated before not being tied to a specific class or gym times worked for me. I could get the workout in when it fit in my schedule.
  • Convenience. With my current job, I was no longer near my gym, and, well, the convenience of driving past it is a huge factor for me in choosing a gym.
  • Friendship. Through the interactions with my trainer, we became friends.
  • Encouragement. I had someone in my corner. He cheered for me when I was racing, lauded my accomplishments. That felt amazing.

The signs of struggle

After about a year, I started to realize my progress was plateauing. I slacked off more frequently, I started questioning whether I was really giving 100-percent in my workouts and I even began to wonder if my form was correct. Really, I only had online videos as a guide.

My initial thought was that it was time to have a heart-to-heart with my trainer. Via emails and texts, I poured my heart out. The truth was, it wasn’t just my workouts that were posing a challenge. My personal life was also in complete upheaval – my marriage was ending, I was changing careers, selling a house and moving. So when my trainer told me it was all the other distractions in life that were affecting my workouts and to hold tight, I did.

A few more months went by and I realized that as the rest of my life started returning to normalcy, I still wasn’t happy with my fitness plan. I felt as though my concerns weren’t being heard, that my progress had stalled, and honestly, I didn’t enjoy working out. Frankly, I could write volumes about excuses and why I didn’t get my workouts in.

I also knew it wasn’t my trainer’s fault. I lost the love for the program, so I didn’t really fight to change things up, to make workouts a challenge or to even complete them. Everything I initially loved about the program was now a reason I was beginning to fail at it and even resent the workouts. I had hit a comfort zone, and didn’t know what to do next.

When Workouts Go Bad

The breakup and fallout

After talking with a few friends, I realized what I had to do – I had to break up with my fitness routine.

But how?

To me, this seemed harder than breaking up with my hairdresser. Would my trainer hate me? Take it personally? What would I do for fitness now?

After some reflection I realized if my trainer was a true fitness professional, he wouldn’t hold it against me for choosing a different path. He wouldn’t see the breakup as personal. So, despite not knowing what step I’d take next, I finally broke up with my trainer.

What happened next? I ate a whole pizza and drank a bottle of wine guilt free.

Just kidding, but I sure did love the cupcake I treated myself to.

After ending the relationship, I was initially sad. A big part of my life for almost two years was no longer there, but coupled with my sadness was a sense of relief for taking a step towards change, I had a whirlwind of emotions. I didn’t have a next step already figured out, and as a continual planner, this caused some panic and anxiety. I worried if I didn’t find the next great plan, I would undo my progress – I would regain weight, I would actually eat an entire pizza and wash it down with a bottle of wine.

Moving on to new fitness relationships

After a few days of working through the emotions of breaking up with my trainer, I needed a new plan. For me, it was doing what I do best: Research.

I talked to fellow runners, other fitness-minded friends, read articles online and signed up for a program called ClassPass that enabled me to test-drive a number of fitness studios for a month. I explored and experimented until I found what ignited my fitness passion again – a combat fitness class that combined high intensity interval training (HIIT) with self-defense. I also signed up for an online yoga subscription after finding a deal on Groupon.

Unfortunately my combat fitness instructor resigned and he was never replaced by the gym, so my fitness program continues to evolve. The good news is I’m currently hitting a high point by combining running, HIIT and yoga.

How to decide when it’s time for a workout breakup

It’s not always immediately clear when a workout breakup is in order, especially if your current workout routine has become part of your personal identity. But you can ask yourself some of the same questions I asked myself before making a decision:

  • Do I look forward to doing the workout?
  • Do I feel fulfilled and exhausted after the workout?
  • Do I reschedule or cut short the workout more often than not?
  • Is it just a time issue that can be worked with?
  • Is it a cost issue? It’s hard to stick to a routine if you can’t afford the equipment or fees.
  • Has my progress plateaued despite efforts to move forward?
  • Is something else going on in my life that may be impacting my fitness routine or progress?

If you’re feeling unsure, take some time to sit down and evaluate your plan. Talk to friends – maybe you’re just in a rut you can work through, or maybe its time to move on. For progress and change to occur, you have to step outside your comfort zone.

If you decide it’s time to break up with your fitness routine, rip the bandage off. Don’t postpone it because you feel guilty. The time you’re not showing up for class or sessions isn’t benefiting you, your bank account or the person you’re working with.

And, as in any relationship that ends, be honest about why. A good fitness professional will understand it’s not personal, and their goal should always be to see you succeed, regardless of how you find success.

Have you gone through a workout breakup? Commiserate in the comments!

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    I think it’s healthy to switch things up from time to time. Our needs change with other aspects of our lives. And even when you’re still enjoying the workouts, you may reach a time when you’ve learned all you can from one particular trainer (or training style). I’m an online fitness coach and personal trainer and I try to make it easy for my clients to have the “I’m ready to move on” conversation with me and I never hold it against someone when they decide to leave personal training for something else.


    Great post. We evolve and our fitness programs need to with us sometimes. Glad to hear you are rediscover things that give you a challenge and that you enjoy.


    There is always a time in your workout regime when you think that you are not getting your desired results. It is time when should switch our exercise regime and include some other exercises which give a change to your body routine.


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