Adaptation to Routine
The human body has a tremendous capability toadapt to just about anything we attempt to do. What starts out difficult becomes easy with time and practice, especially when it comes to exercise.
However there is a drawback to the human body's ability to adapt, both physiologically and psychologically. Ever feel like you've hit that “plateau” and you aren't seeing any progress anymore? Or are you just feeling a bit bored?
A lack of results and boredom are two very common instigators for lacking motivation. Excuses arise and your commitment may waiver.
When we perform the same exercise routines and the same exercises indefinitely, our bodies become used to them and cease responding as effectively. It doesn't matter what type of exercise you are performing, because our most primitive survival mechanisms require our body’s to adapt to the environment that we subject it to. This is true with any physical stimulus, be it directed toward strength, fitness, fat loss, muscle tone and stamina.
Not only does our physical body become complacent by doing the same exercises over and over again, but our mind also becomes lazy. We know that we are going to do the same thing that we did yesterday and the day before and the day before. So, more often than not, boredom sets in. Boredom, and hence a lack in motivation affects your workout intensity which will subsequently impact your results.
But if we were to be optimistic about this, actually reaching this point can be good news. It means that you have mastered this level! It is time to challenge yourself mentally and physically by turning the exercise programme up a notch.
Benefits of Workout Variety
Changing up your routine does much more than beat boredom. Barbara Bushman, PhD, Associate Professor at the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at Southwest Missouri State University says, “There are some physiological benefits as well as psychological benefits of having variety in your exercise program. Stress on the body is a good thing. We don’t want it to be an excessive overload, but we need to push it beyond what it normally does in order for it to improve.”1
One of the most common mistakes that people make when exercising is not including include variety in their exercise regime. Even by just changing the exercise order, you will keep your body continually guessing as to what's coming next. Plus it’s more exciting than doing the same-old routine, helping you to remain focused and energised.
In addition, exercise variety helps ensure improved overall fitness and prevent over-training of some muscles while others are neglected. In terms of weight loss, while it’s not possible to “spot reduce” (or remove fat in just one area of the body by exercising that area), introducing variety will help to lift your energy expenditure. The most effective fat burning will happen in response to a well-balanced and varied programme of regular physical activity.
So, how do we actually mix things up, safely and effectively?
How to Add Variety to Your Workout Routine
One of the best ways to add variety and round out your exercise routine is by using a technique known as muscle confusion. Muscle confusion is not just varying the different exercises, but also includes adding completely different training techniques into your programme. The following training tips will allow you to challenge yourself with an assortment of different routines and exercises to jump-start your muscles into responding:
Interval training has been around for quite some time; however until recently it was mainly used by competitive athletes. These days interval training has become a fun way to energise your exercise routine and reach levels of fitness – in less time! That’s right, you can actually spend less time at the gym, burn more fat, have more fun, avoid boredom and improve your fitness level.
Interval training is a concept of working out for short period at a high intensity level, followed by a short period at a lower intensity, and repeating. This is in contrast to the more traditional cardio approach of maintaining the same pace for the entire workout (also known as steady state cardio).
This technique can be applied to both resistance and cardio exercise. Performing interval training with music is particularly enjoyable.
Dumbbells, Barbells and Resistance Bands
If resistance training is your cup of tea, try varying what you use as resistance. Most people exclusively use the machines that are readily available within the gym. Free weights (such as dumbbells and barbells) do require more control and stability, providing your body with a completely different stimulus.
Resistance bands also provide a completely different feel to free weights, as the resistance increases the further the band is stretched.
Free weights can be intimidating if you’re unsure of how to use them safely and effectively, so be sure to obtain the assistance of a professional.
Varying Aerobic Activities
Many people go to the gym to burn as many kiljoules as they possibly can in the cardio area of the gym. However there are many different cardiovascular activities outside the gym that can also have a very positive effect on energy expenditure.
Why not try something different once or twice a week such as: swimming, dancing, basketball, tennis, hiking, bicycling outdoors, rock climbing, soccer, jumping rope, climbing stairs or even rollerblading? All of these activities will help you to burn off extra energy and many will get you outside for a breath of fresh air.
If you really want to challenge yourself and get an excellent full-body workout, try setting up a circuit routine. This can be as easy as picking five or six different exercises that you will perform in sequence with no rest in between. Repeat the circuit and only rest at the conclusion of each cycle.
A tip here is to perform large compound movements that utilize multiple joints simultaneously. For example, the leg press, chest press and pulldown machines.
Also, alternate from upper body to lower body exercises. This will avoid excessive fatigue in one area of the body (and hence affecting workout intensity). Further, this will result in blood be drawn from one area of the body to another and therefore burning more energy.
Yoga and Pilates
Although these two mental and physical strengthening techniques have been around for many years, they are now recognised as being an effective compliment to any exercise programme. Many world-class athletes including skiers, football players, basketball players and even wrestlers incorporate some type of either Yoga or Pilates into their programmes to improve strength, balance, co-ordination, posture and flexibility.
Always remember that a successful fitness programme includes proper nutrition, recovery and an appropriate approach to exercise.
Variety, too, is an integral part to your long-term results. As the old saying goes, “variety is the spice of life”, and it is important to incorporate some zest into your exercise routine. Variety will not only to keep you interested, but to also keep your body continuously responding to your workouts, avoiding the dreaded plateau.