Variety is the Spice of Life (part 1)

We all know the age-old adage “Variety is the spice of life”. Many of us also have first hand experience with this concept as we have made simple changes to some aspect of our daily lives at one time or another and quickly noted the renewed enthusiasm that often accompanies such changes. In many instances some simple changes to your fitness routine are just what the doctor ordered to breath new life and progress into an other wise dull, stale routine.

If you have been consistently and regularly exercising for six to eight months or more, your body has become accustomed to the stress of exercise. Many of us notice rapid improvements when we first begin a fitness routine only to see those improvements dry up and disappear in just a few short weeks or months. Why dose this occur? What can we do about it? Read on and I’ll tell you.

First of all lets hear it for our bodies. They are amazing marvels of biomechanical design. To see and feel them functioning at their peak is truly an experience of splendor. We don’t always treat them as well as we should and yet they continue to try their best for us no questions asked. If we give them good fuel, keep up with some basic regular maintenance and get out and move them around a bit they will reward us with years of hassle free service. Just about any physical challenge we humans can dream up can be overcome by these amazing machines we call our bodies.

Modern society is one of convenience. Exercise literally used to mean life or death for us. Now it has become just one of many activities we are trying to find time for in our busy lives. If you are reading this then you have probably found at least a little time for fitness in your hectic schedule. But are you having fun? Are you branching out and trying new things? Does your workout routine have any spice? If you answered no to any of those questions, fear not for I am here to help. Getting spicy is a lot easier then you may think.

Lets back track for just a second. As I said above, the body is amazing. It likes us to be able to accomplish our tasks with energy to spare. This is a self-preservation tactic. If our bodies did not find ways to maximize efficiency then we would use up too much of our valuable energy resources trying to accomplish the most basic daily tasks. Instead, our amazing bodies continue to increase the ease and efficiency of executing these tasks and finds ways to use less and less energy to accomplish them. When we are learning a skill such as a racquetball serve or throwing a right hook punch, we want our bodies to become better and more efficient over time. This allows us to execute the skill with maximum efficacy. For fitness however, we want to avoid this process. If we stay on the same old routine our bodies will get better and better at accomplishing the task while expending less energy to do so. In other words, the longer we stay on the same fitness routine, the less effective it will become for us. So, how do we fix this problem? How do we keep our bodies from adapting to our routine?

Step one; try something new. This seems like a no-brainer but so many of us have become creatures of habit. We plod along in the same old routine, day in and day out…Blah. On a side note, if you have been doing some routine for three months and it is not producing the results you expected or desired, it will not suddenly and miraculously start producing results in the fourth month. Trust me it wont. So, it is time for a change.

If group exercise classes are what you enjoy, try a new one. Don’t just stick with the same old Monday Wednesday Friday schedule. If you always do Step class try a boot camp or total body conditioning class. Try a dance class. Challenge your self to break out of the mold. Remember just because your do three different classes every week, does not mean you are getting a varied workout routine. Have you been doing the same three classes for six weeks, six months, or six years? When you are doing a class and the teacher says “Grab some Dumbbells” do you always grab the same weight(s)? Try something heavier next time. There are several reasons why so few gym members seem to make long-term changes to their bodies and not having variety is one of them

If you love to do cardio training and always walk on the treadmill, branch out. Try using the rowing machine or jumping rope. Use a different stair machine then usual. It could be something as simple as trying a different program on the same machine. If you always do the “Fat Burn” program try “Cardio” or “Intervals” for a change of pace. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll get far more benefit from increasing your intensity then from increasing your duration. So, go on up to level 10 instead of adding another ten minutes to your workout.

If you are a strength-training zealot, then the same applies to you. Change your routine frequently. Use a different angle for the same general body part (going from flat to incline on your bench press). Use a different machine. Change the order of your exercises. Change your repetition range. If you always do 8-12, try 6-8 or even 4-6. As with the cardio training it is better to increase intensity rather then increase volume and or frequency of training. If you have been stuck at a plateau for some time, it is likely you need to take a few days off from training and then come back at it with a new and different approach. Try training harder but less often. Split your routine in a new way or switch to whole body workouts for a change. Remember, to get the most from your strength-training routine it should be brief, intense, and infrequent.

If you consider yourself a cross-trainer and mix things up between weights, classes, cardio etc, you must still take a close look at your daily, and weekly “routine”. If it is routine, then as I mentioned above, it’s time to shake things up a bit. In part two of this article we’ll dig a little deeper into how to add variety to our training routines.

To be continued……



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