I know it’s only February, but if you’re getting bored with your routine (I hate that word!) chances are your muscles (your heart and every other muscle in your body) aren’t being challenged either. Our bodies adapt to the stresses we put them under. So rather quickly, what was once difficult to accomplish becomes much easier for the body — though getting your butt to the gym enough times per week still may be as difficult ;-).
While there are no hard and fast rules in fitness, I’ve come up with four that you should heed if you want to see continued progress.
RULE #1: Do NOT do the same routine every time you work out.
If you get on the elliptical machine each time you’re in the gym, you’re likely not challenging yourself and not seeing the results you got when you first started exercising. What to do? Mix things up—use different cardio machines each time you do cardio. Mix in interval training (periods of increased effort with periods of recovery) so you’re not just getting on the treadmill and going at one steady speed. And alternate between machines and free weights when you’re doing your strength training.
RULE #2: (Wo)Man does not live by cardio alone.
Revered fitness authority, Jane Brody of the New York TImes recently wrote about how important it is to train for strength, flexibility and balance IN ADDITION to cardiovascular fitness. So if you’re a cardio junkie (I used to be one and wondered why I didn’t see continuous improvement from my workout), you need to add the other missing links—especially strength training - into your schedule. Best of all, you’ll actually see more results in LESS time. (More on that in a future blog post.) Same goes for guys who only push the heavy weights—you need the cardio and flexibility training whether you realize it or not.
RULE #3: Cross-Train.
Even those of you who have no desire to ever do a triathlon (though I highly recommend it)should be training in more than one decipline. Why? Look at professional marathoners’ bodies - they only do one thing. And in my opinion, they could use a little more shape to their bodies. Cyclists could use something up top to match their gnarly strong quads and tight butts. And swimmers—well, we don’t want East German swimmers shoulders do we? (At least most women don’t.)
So to slim down all over, adding some running into your workout is a good idea. Swimming will help add upper body definition, cycling will get those thighs and glutes in tip top shape, and by cross-training, you’ll always be challenging your body.
RULE #4: Periodically, increase your intensity of training.
When you first enter the gym and start strength training (i.e. weights), you should be training for muscular endurance. That means low weights and high repetitions. After a month or so of 2-3 times per week, you can then progress to building strength and muscle definition (ladies, don’t worry, you won’t get big weight training, unless you take steroids like those old East German swimmers did).
For strength, you use much higher weights, less reps and more sets. Power training is the top of the pyramid, once reserved for athletes, but really appropriate for anyone who wants to move faster, with more power, than the speed at which you usually push weights.
It helps to have a personal trainer guide you through the various phases of training, as you don’t want to guess at weight or compromise on your form, which could cause more problems.
More rules to come next time. Meanwhile, get out of your routine. Your brain and your body will appreciate it.
MissFit, aka Eve Hartman, is a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer who gladly makes house calls. For more information, contact her at 914-588-0591 or at TeamMissFit.com. To subscribe to Miss Fit’s RSS feed, click here.