You want to be a fit person, right? Now that I've made fitness a habit in my life, I'm sharing my own secrets to keeping fit and staying healthy in the ongoing Habits of Fit People series.
Here's one that works for me: Mixing up your workout routine. So why does something like this matter?
I probably don't need to tell you that doing the same old workout day in and day out can become, well, boring. And when you're bored with exercise, you're more likely to drudge through it (without working to your full potential) and more likely to make excuses. After all, if your workout isn't as fun or exciting, as the other parts of your life, why bother?
Beyond the mental monotony, doing too much of the same movements and exercises can cause problems for your body, too. For one, it could result in overuse injuries, which are common among people who use the same muscles groups and joints in the same ways for too long. Secondly, your body adapts to your routine. Those smart muscles of yours know exactly what's coming and they begin to work out as efficiently as possible, which means you're actually working less intensely than before and burning fewer calories. All that adds up to one thing: the dreaded plateau.
One surefire way to prevent all these problems is to mix it up—your workout, that is. I know we're creatures of habit, but even the most rigid of us can find ways to add a little variety to our plans. It doesn't have to cost a lot of money or take more time either.
I am all about mixing up my workout routine. I get bored…fast. My fitness personality reveals that I need to change things up as much as possible, and I've experienced results from a variety-packed approach of this firsthand. When I shared my workout "routine" with everyone, one thing was clear: It is not much of a routine. I exercise, but I do something different day to day and week to week.
Even if you love the predictability of the same workout, the same exercises and the same machines, you can still mix it up. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Timing is everything. Instead of always doing 20 minutes on the treadmill, play with that timing. Try shorter workouts, bumping up the intensity, or longer ones when you can squeeze them in. If walking is all you have access to, that's OK. Mix up your intensity and workout duration to continue surprising your body and seeing results.
Class act. Even if you don't belong to a gym, most gyms offer trial passes (sometimes for up to a week of free access) or promotions where you can take a class for free before you buy. Find something new and different that'll surprise your muscles and recharge your mind.
Gather ideas. It isn't easy to come up with new workouts and ideas all the time on your own. Luckily, SparkPeople's free workout videos, exercise demos, and fitness resources offer hundreds of ideas for new exercises. You can also sift through magazines for new and interesting moves to try at home or at the gym. Personally, I never do the same strength-training workout twice. But at the very least, you should change up your routine entirely every 6-8 weeks minimum. This article explains how.
Cross train. Essentially, "mixing it up" is the same thing as cross training, which offers many benefits to the body, from greater calorie burn to a decreased risk of injury and burnout. All it means is that you need to change up the MODE of exercise you choose so that you're using your body in a variety of ways. A sound fitness program should consist of at least two types of cardio exercise, for example, be it walking, running, or biking. Swimming, dancing, boxing, step aerobics, jumping rope—all of these cardio activities are different. If you need ideas of where to start, consider both high and lower impact options. Cycling (low-impact) is a great compliment to running (high impact). Swimming (low impact) uses your muscles in different ways than walking (medium impact).
Take it to a new direction. You might not know it by watching most people who work out in the gym, but our bodies are designed for more than forward motion. However, we walk, run, bike, and swim forward all the time. For greater variety, consider activities that move in NEW directions. Use the elliptical in reverse motion. Try rock climbing and take your workout to new heights. Add the backstroke to your swimming workout. Take a dance or aerobics class, most of which offer movement in all directions, including laterally. These multidirectional movements use your muscles in new ways—that's a good thing!
Turn to the video stars. Visit your local library and check out whatever workout DVD that looks most interesting to you. I try new DVDs regularly because it makes my workouts more fun and interesting—you never know what you're going to get! I have a small library at home of my favorite titles, which I turn to when I'm starting to feel bored with my usual workouts or when I just need a little jumpstart.
If you don't already mix it up regularly, now's the time. Start by swapping out your usual workout once or twice a week with one of the ideas above. Come up with new ways to surprise your muscles and excite your mind about fitness, and you'll be on your way to making it a habit you can stick with for the long run!
Do you "mix it up" when it comes to fitness or are you stuck in a routine? What are some ways YOU can add more variety to your fitness program starting today?
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