Updated: Dec 13, 2019
When I began working out in 2015, I didn't worry about varying my workouts, as my body was a long way from adapting or plateauing — and boredom was certainly not an issue as all the video workouts were new to me. Now I focus on diversifying my workouts to make sure that my body doesn't have the chance to adapt, continually challenging myself mentally and physically. Between the swimming, biking, running, strength and core work there's always a way to mix things up and keep it fresh.
1. Prevent burnout or boredom. Some say the hardest part of getting fit is taking the initiative to begin. To some degree that is true — AND staying interested and motivated to keep at it can also be challenging for many. If you find that you're dreading your next workout or procrastinating getting yourself to the gym, then it might be time to mix things up — challenge yourself to do something you've never done before. Instead of doing your regularly scheduled 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer, perhaps take a spin class or row a couple thousand meters on the erg or take a HIIT class. Changing things up not only offers your body a new challenge, it stimulates your brain as well. I often watch people working out at the gym when I'm running on the treadmill because it's more interesting then watching tv. It's pretty obvious who is truly dedicated to their workout and who is just going through the motions. If you put in the effort to get yourself to the gym or the track or the studio, then at least enjoy what you're doing so you can reap the benefits AND feel eager to go back the next day with even more energy and enthusiasm.
2. Avoid or delay hitting plateaus and adaptation. Adding variety and/or adjusting variables to your workouts will keep your exercises from becoming ineffective and hindering anticipated potential/results. If you run at the same speed on the treadmill everyday for 20 minutes, your body will eventually hit a plateau. You will still be burning calories, but you'll need to increase your resistance levels or speed if you want to really maximize results. If you keep performing the same strength and core work every workout you may find that you're disinterested or getting injured because those muscles don't have time to repair or you may see a lack of physical change to your body. I'm constantly researching for different workouts or variations to keep things fresh. Changing things up can be as simple as doing Barbell Bench Presses one week and Dumbbell Bench Presses the next. In addition, there are thousands of trainers and workout videos on YouTube that can be streamed in a gym, studio or the outdoors. Obviously, make sure to choose moves the are challenging and match your current skill and fitness levels so you don't injure yourself. Beachbody On Demand (BOD) also offers multiple trainers and workouts that you can choose from. BOD also offers a Challenge De Jour each week that will systematically mix up the workouts for you.
It's easy (and comfortable) to just pick up the same weights and perform the same moves or to keep attending the same strength training class without changing the weights you use or how deep you lunge or attending the same spin class and not adding more resistance to the spin bike — but that can lead to complacency and potentially adaptation. Challenge yourself on your next workout to change things up, and get a little uncomfortable — I bet you'll feel a renewed sense of commitment to your fitness.
3. Continue to be physically challenged. This is one of the driving forces behind why I continually switch up my practice. In the beginning of this journey I found myself being challenged by a 30 minute, 21 Day Fix workout. As my endurance and fitness improved over these last 2 years, I increased the time of my workouts and searched for new tools/workouts to challenge myself with. Changing up the swimming, biking, and running are relatively easy as I can increase mileage, intensity, duration, include intervals, etc. There are also a variety of ways to change up strength and core work. You can work different muscle groups and even focus on certain muscles that can some times get overlooked. One area that most people can can benefit from giving extra attention to are their glutes and hip flexors.
Between the unlimited collection of strength and core videos available on line and the array of classes at gyms and studios, plus the different tools and equipment available to us, there's really no reason not to challenge your body and mind with something new and different each week. Including something new or modifying a workout slightly doesn't necessarily need to be something dramatic, just something that excites you, challenges you mentally and physically, perhaps even scares you a little. The sense of accomplishment after trying something new can be very gratifying.
Here are a few of the tools I use to keep myself challenged. I also alternate between battle rope, a pull up bar, sandbag, resistance bands, bodyweight exercises, TRX, and more. To see everything I incorporate, check out the different equipment and videos I use in my strength and core work to keep my workouts challenging and fresh.
4. Prevent overuse and injuries. If you do the same intense workout each day, you won't allow certain muscle groups enough time to heal between each workout, and you potentially increase your chances of getting injured — I should know, as I'm guilty of this. Overuse often occurs from performing lots of repetitive motions, such as running, kicking (in kickboxing or martial arts classes), squatting, or performing the same swim stroke. By mixing up your activities, you give those overused muscles, joints, and ligaments a chance to rest and recover before putting them into action again. And if you do get injured, performing a different activity or workout that doesn’t strain the same part of the body will allow you to maintain your fitness and heal at the same time.
5. Keeps your brain challenged. In addition to the physical benefits of working out, it's also great for your brain, as it keeps your brain sharp. Exercise causes a series of chemical reactions that help with everything from your mood to your memory. And when you learn a new move/skill or change the intensity of a workout or run intervals on a track for the first time, your brain gets engaged, and endorphins get released — and we get that little exercise high.
Launching today on my blog, check out the new Move of the Week located on the front blog page. Each week I will post a video with a new move for you to incorporate into your workouts to keep your own fitness practice varied and interesting. I will also be offer options to make the exercise more challenging or less challenging, when applicable.
Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. - C. Tyson