When was the last time you switched up your exercise routine? Many of us are creatures of habit when it comes to how we get our sweat on. We find that one running route that works for us, or that spin class we can’t miss and we get into a comfortable groove with it. And while there’s no denying that the benefits of regular physical exercise – both mental and physical – are worth it no matter what routine you follow, there’s also a lot of evidence that regularly changing what you do and how you do it has even more to offer. Your body and brain quickly get used to one type of exercise, and over time it stops being as effective. With changing what you do, you’re not only activating different muscle groups and providing more overall body conditioning, but you’re challenging your mind – preventing boredom and making you work harder as you don’t know what’s next. There are certainly enough new activities out there to keep you going, and your new routine doesn’t have to be a million miles away from your old one. Addicted to Pilates? Try a Barre class instead. Can’t be without that twenty minute blast on the treadmill? Get outside for your run and challenge yourself in a whole different way. Love team sports? Try some of the new basketball workouts with some friends. Working your body in a new way is the key to accelerating your overall fitness levels and boosting your performance in the sport or activity that you like the most.
Whether you exercise for the strength gains, the mental health benefits or for weight loss, every one of these factors is prone to hitting a plateau when you’ve been doing the same thing for a while. This is simply because, when you do the same activity repeatedly, your body will adapt and become very efficient. This means the release of soothing chemicals like dopamine, and the calorie burn, quickly tapers off, even as you do the same amount of work. When you do something unexpected and challenge your body, then it has to work harder – meaning you get greater benefits.
Protect Your Body
Ever notice that niggle in your lower back or twinge in your calf muscle after your workout session? When we repeat the same activities again and again, we can create repetitive strain injuries which gradually get worse over time. Things like running, playing tennis, kickboxing and swimming can be quite prone to causing these types of things. When you mix up your workout, you’re using different muscle groups and parts of your body – allowing the affected areas time off to heal, but also activating other support muscles which can take the stain off your vulnerable area. That way you can still stay in shape and keep active, but you’re also giving your body the time it needs to heal up.
Building Your Form
If you do one activity regularly, it’s likely that the corresponding part of your body will be in good shape – so you can tell a runner by defined calf muscles, or a swimmer by their powerful shoulders. Repeating one sport builds up a very specific set of muscles over time. However, unless you’re going for Olympic gold, it’s far better to take a generalist approach to your conditioning, as this creates a leaner, more defined overall look which is more balanced. Focus on gaining lean muscle over the whole body and increasing your cardiovascular fitness with interval training, and you’ll get the best results. A short routine involving weight training and a HIIT session is a great combination to keep you in generally good condition.
Beat The Boredom
We all have peaks and troughs of motivation – that’s entirely natural. It’s much easier to power through that grueling spin session when you know you only have two weeks left until you need to put on swimwear, for example. But what happens when there isn’t a specific event to aim for? Motivation can quickly die down, and you may find yourself counting down the minutes on the treadmill or sneaking a glance at your watch as you train. This is a clear signal that it’s time to mix up what you’re doing and give yourself a brand new challenge. Book into a totally new class – you haven’t got much to lose – try a new fitness trend, or if you’re into running, add some Fartlek training to the mix. This will bring back that invigorated feeling you used to get at the end of a workout session, and help with the release of endorphins, those feel- good brain chemicals that make exercise so addictive.