Although everyone knows that regular exercise is critical to good health and fitness, many people struggle to adhere to a consistent regimen. They may start and quit, periodically exercise or never workout at all. In fact, very few Americans meet expert recommendations for exercise each week.
However, some exercise aficionados who follow a fitness routine without wavering over time. Whether gym rats, group exercise groupies or running fanatics, these individuals have made ongoing exercise a lifestyle choice, and are likely to be committed long-term. Although this may be a population that you love to hate due to their diehard dedication, they really should be admired and emulated.
The bottom line is that steadily following an exercise regimen weekly, year after year, is a great way to invest in your health and boost your quality of life. As creatures of habit, however, many of us who exercise perform the same routine each week without variation. An even better way to workout is by periodically changing your fitness regimen. It doesn’t mean you have to scrap everything you love, or take on activities that you dread; but instead ideally should add new exercises or formats, try different equipment or take a class from time to time.
If you have an exercise plan that seems to be working, you may wonder why changes are necessary. Note, it is most important to make exercise a habit. Once you’ve done that, changing your fitness routine occasionally provides multiple benefits:
- Greater results: According to the SAID principle (specific adaptations to imposed demands), our bodies eventually adjust to the stresses exerted upon them, which illustrates how a non-runner can train for and complete a marathon, or how you can gradually increase the weight you lift or increase repetitions with training. When you’re just getting started with an exercise routine, your body is adapting and improving in many ways. But as you become more fit over several months, completing the same routine no longer results in fitness gains, but simply maintenance. To enhance fitness further, you need to alter the stressors.
Certainly, there is nothing wrong with simply maintaining your fitness level, which is still beneficial to your health. But to see greater results or break a fitness plateau, new exercises or workouts are ideal, as they change what’s required of the body, and it has to react.
- Better overall fitness level: While a distance runner may be considered fit, he/she excels in cardiovascular endurance, which is only one component of fitness. If you’re not addressing the main components of fitness, it’s time to change your plan.
In addition to cardiovascular endurance, fitness is comprised of muscular strength and endurance and flexibility. Diversifying your fitness routine can ensure that you include each component or alternate which component you are focusing on. For instance, yoga is great for muscular strength and flexibility, but doesn’t tend to address cardiovascular endurance. So adding a cardio component, such as swimming, biking or the elliptical, will improve your overall conditioning.
- Enhanced motivation: Even the most disciplined exercisers can get bored doing the same thing constantly. Just consider how easy it is to revert to automatic pilot with your standard treadmill program or while paging through a magazine while pedaling a stationary bike. Varying the routine is a great way to banish boredom and add excitement and new energy to workouts, as you learn something new or challenge yourself differently. If you’re more motivated, both your mind and body will benefit and you’ll get the most return on your investment.
- Expanded skills and experiences: Trying new exercises and activities leads to broader skill sets, such as the ability to complete push-ups or pull-ups, or to finish a half-marathon or triathlon. And exercise doesn’t have to be restricted to the gym, of course. You can learn to play tennis, cross-country ski or swim. These new skills can lead to new experiences, such as classes, training groups, clubs or competitions/races. Again, here your mind, body and even social life can benefit.
- Aging/injury accommodation: It’s no surprise that some activities can become more difficult as we age, or nearly impossible due to injuries. Rather than give up exercise, revamping your regimen means finding alternative exercises that better meet your needs, according to your age and injuries. So if bad knees have made it very painful to run, use an elliptical or try the Zero Runner, which eliminates all repetitive impact. Or if you prefer seated exercise as you get older, try a rowing machine or recumbent elliptical. Ultimately, modifying your exercise routine and adding variety can help reduce overuse and the risk of common injuries as well.
If you like your current fitness regimen, don’t feel compelled to drop it entirely and replace it with an all-new plan. You don’t want to adopt a new routine, discover that you don’t like it and then just quit altogether. Use your judgment and weave in new exercise components over time.
- Evaluate current practice: Consider what you want to keep and what you can let go of for now. See if you are covering all the components of fitness. Changes can be as simple as varying your cycling route, adding 10 minutes of stretching per session, learning a new exercise like a clean and press, incorporating one HIIT session, taking on another workout each week or trying a new group exercise instructor.
- Investigate other options: Although you don’t have to belong to a health club, there, numerous options exist that make it easy to incorporate variety. At the gym, or the local recreation center, specialty fitness studio or university, check out personal training, small group training and the multitude of group exercise classes. Note dates and times and schedule what interests you in your calendar. Maybe now is the time to try Zumba after years of avoiding it. Or sign up with a friend for a boot camp session outdoors.
Many community park districts also offer classes such as golf, pickleball, Pilates and even inline skating that can add a twist to your fitness routine. Or look into local clubs for walking, running, rowing, cycling and more.
If you prefer to exercise on your own, investigate training DVDs or online services that bring various workouts to your home. Seek new exercises or training plans on websites, in magazines and in books. Consider investing in fitness technology such as a fitness tracker, heart rate monitor, dumbbells, resistance bands or a treadmill, elliptical or stationary bike to add even more motivation and selection.
- Get started: You don’t have to try everything immediately, but weave in new exercises and activities over a few weeks or months. Ask for a free trial session or class if you are reluctant to commit to paying upfront for the full duration. But realize that you may need more than one session to determine if you will like this new activity.
Take a specific class with more than one instructor if possible to find the best that suits your preferences. And if ultimately, you really dislike the new activity or exercise, you’re not bound to it. Try something else to continue changing your fitness routine periodically.