Anyone who knows me knows how stubborn I am about keeping my routine. Same music on Spotify, same cafe, same favorite foods… There’s nothing I love more than good old predictable run I’ve been doing since 2009…mmm… But this summer I’ve been finding more ways to vary my workouts. Even if you are devoted to your particular exercise plan, there are so many benefits to taking up something new.
1) Your body needs new challenges to improve.
Even if running a 5 mile route once got your heart pumping, it probably isn’t doing very much for you physique-wise if you’ve been doing it again and again. (Important: If your goal is health and longevity as opposed to fitness, performance, or weight loss, doing the same, un-challenging routine will be just as beneficial. In fact a new study reports that people who run as little as 5-10 mins a day at leisurely pace reap as much longevity benefits as those who run 150 minutes or more a week!)
But if you’re looking to sculpt muscles or shed weight, take note: the human body is designed to adapt to physical exertion. Experts recommend anywhere from switching every couple of weeks to 6-8 weeks to avoid hitting plateaus. But follow your individual timeline: if you’re not sweating bullets and struggling for breath during your workouts, it’s time to switch!
2) You avoid injuries.
To avoid overusing certain muscles and joints, it’s helpful to switch out your routine once in a while. My persistent right foot injury is what got me into switching things up.
3) You keep yourself mentally challenged!
Many people cite boredom as a reason for not exercising. Even if you’re not the one to stop working out altogether, changing your routine is mentally and emotionally exhilarating! Learning to move in a different way keeps your mind as well as your body agile.
Ready to spice up your fitness routine? Spicing things up can be as simple as incorporating High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or increasing the incline. But I really love taking up a new sport or class to not just challenge my cardio ability, but to train my muscles in a completely different way. Here are some ideas:
1. Running on the treadmill -> Running outside
Taking your running outside makes it much more challenging. There are myriad unforeseen inclines and direction changes on the pavement, and even the fact that you have to be aware of your surroundings compels your body to work harder. Plus, summer morning or night runs are so refreshing and beautiful!
2. Running outside -> Swimming
While running outside is the cheapest, most effective, full-body workout that anyone can do, it can also be a lot of pressure on your joints. All strenuous exercise elicits inflammatory response in your body, but weight-bearing exercise done in heat (like running outside under the sun) can be especially harsh–and can be experienced as swelling, soreness, redness, and heat. Swimming is not only less stressful for your joints, but also keeps your body cooler while still challenging it. I’ve swapped 2 of my runs with swims each week, and I love how challenging it is (and let’s face it, it’s so much better being in cool water than running in 90% humidity).
3. Yoga -> Aerial yoga
Nothing comes close to the “yoga high” after your favorite class. But finding new twists in your yoga practice can be rewarding–and isn’t keeping a sense of humor and an open mind a lot of what yoga is about? Aerial yoga, also known as trapeze yoga or anti gravity yoga, is done using a sheet of fabric so you are suspended in air while doing many of the familiar poses. It’s incredible for conditioning as well as for building confidence–many say it’s an emotionally cathartic experience!
4. Weight training -> Boxing
If you like sculpting lean muscle through weight training, but get bored with doing the same exercises (or find yourself taking too many breaks in between), try boxing. Boxing combines anaerobic and aerobic benefits into one fast-paced workout, and you’re sure to get the same kind of energizing, “anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better” high. And, it challenges your balance and core muscles more than simply lifting weights, for all-over toning.
5. Zumba -> Nia
Have you heard of Nia? If you like dancing to great world music and burning some calories while at it, you’ll love this cardio dance class that merges elements of jazz, modern dance styles, martial arts like Tai Chi and Tae Kwon Do, and yoga. It’s also set to pop, electronica, jazz, Latin, New Age, and hip hop.
What’s your favorite way to shake up your fitness routine? Any exciting new classes? Please share!
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling; a4gpa via Flickr