6 Killer Ways to Break the Monotony of Training

athlete monotonyBy Alexander Castiglione

We’ve all had those days (or weeks) where training just seemed to grind. You went through the paces, and at time lost motivation. Even if you were diligently working towards a goal, the dreariness of ruck, PT, run, stretch, repeat seemed to get the better of you. But if it’s becoming more and more of an occurrence, maybe you need to switch up your training approach.

Here are just some ways you can do that to break up the monotony and breathe some new life into your WODs.

Hat Workouts

Throw a bunch of workouts into a hat, and pick. Make sure you take rest days though and train smart. You shouldn’t be doing back to back long runs, or a few intense metcons back to back.

Variety options:  Put movements in one hat, and numbers in another. Draw a few from each, that’s your workout. For example, I put a bunch of bodyweight movements in one hat, and a bunch of round numbers in another—20, 30, 50, 100, etc.

Check out the SGPT online store for a huge selection of training programs!
You’ll get knocked out of your training boredom in no time! HOOYAH!

So your workout for a day may look like 50 pull-ups, 20 man makers,  100 flutter kicks. Leave those out of the hat, put the numbers back, and draw again the next day to avoid training the same movement too much.

If you want to vary it even more, draw the number of rounds out of another hat—or use a deck of playing cards in conjunction with this. Shuffle, pick a card either from the top or bottom or randomly. Your number of reps/rounds is the face value of each card.

Even more challenging: Keep the Jokers in and assign that a value of 2 or 3 (or 4 or 5, depending on your training level), and then choose another card. Take the value you’ve assigned to the Joker card and use that to multiply the value of the second card.

Once done, slip the Joker back in.

Also depending on your fitness level, you can either use a full deck of playing cards, or divide it in half, thirds or quarters. (If you’re really new, just choose one suit.)

Do this for a week for two and you’ll probably want to get back to regimented programming.

Deck of Cards Workout

This is one of my favorites, and there’s even an app for this type of workout where you can enter your own movements, and  tap the screen when you’re done.

No need to look for a deck of cards. Make sure to vary it up, and I’d recommend doing mostly moves you hate. The only way to get better is to get comfortable being uncomfortable. The one I have is called “WOD Cards.”

Baseline Tests

Sometimes I find the best way to get re-motivated is to do some baseline tests so you can see how far you’ve come, and how far you have to go. Retest your max effort runs, swims, and WODs.

The Bergeron Beep test is always a gut-check: Every minute on the minute (EMOM) do 7 pull-ups, 7 thrusters with 75lbs (or 2 kettle bells, sandbag, heavy ruck, whatever you got), 7 burpees. Continue as long as possible.

The SEALgrinderPT baseline test is also a good one. Other good baseline tests are the Cindy and Helen WODs. Check out our tips here for the workout Cindy.

Once you’ve established your first baseline, mark it down in a journal, then repeat it every 1-3 months.

Another good one to really test your fitness level is the Murph WOD.

Try Something New

I know it’s not a new idea, but say you’re a boxer training for an upcoming fight, or just training period.

If you lose some of your zeal, try out BJJ, or Muay Thai, or even something not in the combat sports realm. Mountain bike for a week, start doing gymnastics based workouts. Mix it up.

Maybe you just need to give your CNS a break from doing what it’s been doing. For many CrossFitters, I tell them to go rock climbing, biking, to go on a long hike, do something other than what you do at the box. IE weight lifting and body weight metcons. For people training for Spec Ops —try something completely out of the realm of PT; like tennis, or squash.

Still get your cardio in while working on hand eye coordination. Without getting too technical, variety helps rewire your brain, and neurologically stops you from burning out.


In this same vein, if you want to get creative or even work out with your kids, think of mixing scavenger hunts into workouts. It takes some planning, but if you take the time to plan and execute, it will most likely break the monotony on two levels. For instance, agree that you will run from your house to a local park, then head to the park and hide something that has a workout written on/in it – like an water bottle with a piece of paper inside.

In the bottle it might say “50 burpees, jog to ___” and list another location. Once there, you find another bottle that tells you to do pull-ups – and so on and so forth. It adds an element of surprise and changes the location. But yes, also take a lot of time.

These are just some novel ideas to break up the monotony. Some require just shifting gears, others require changing your entire methodology. Try them out when you hit a plateau and see of it doesn’t set some fire back in your training.

Train With a Partner

If you usually get after it alone, train with a partner. Having someone other than yourself to push your pace or keep you motivated will help for sure.

You can also use any of these other suggestions for training together.

Another way to add variety is to wear a weight vest or a weighted ruck. This will ratchet up your workouts more than you realize.

About the Author:

Alexander Castiglione has always enjoyed punishing himself with crazy workouts,”death-by” WODs, and heavy rucks. His favorite Crossfit Workouts are Angie, Nicole, and Murph; his least favorite is Karen.

He writes for various publications freelance, and loves teaching people to be body-weight ninjas. In his free time, when he’s not working out, he enjoys rock climbing, shooting, taking his 2 dogs on long hikes, and reading whatever he can get his hands on.

QUESTION: Coach, got some suggestions about how to get through a wall I’ve hit with my training? I haven’t gotten a PR in a long time!

ANSWER: Check out this article: 10 Tips to Break Through Training Plateaus.

QUESTION: I need a new water bladder. Do you have any you recommend?

ANSWER: Yes; check this list of our top favorites.



How to Know if You are Overtraining

10 Tips to Stay Motivated

10 Tips to Improve Your Pull-Ups

Seal Fit Stack

SGPT Upcoming Events

Personal Online Coaching

Work 1-on-1
with SEAL Grinder's Brad McLeod
To Achieve Your Goals

pic of brad

Personal fitness training from Brad McLeod, Navy Seal and CrossFit Level 1 instructor. Delivered online, directly to you.

"I recommend Brad to anyone that seriously wants to go to BUDs or anything else in life... try these workouts. Hooyah!" - Chris H.

learn more button