The key to sticking to any routine is doing something you like, and when it comes to working out, sometimes “something you like” consists only of engaging in the same familiar workout four to six times a week. However, as much as you may enjoy your fitness method of choice, we all know that when you do too much of any one thing, you’re bound to fall into a rut. It gets worse: A fitness rut has both mental and physical downsides, because not only do you feel less motivated to work out, your body also physically gets used to the movements, resulting in … well, fewer results.
“Variety is key,” says celebrity personal trainer Joel Harper. “My goal with my clients is to work every single one of their muscles from every single angle. This gives them well-defined, but most importantly, balanced bodies.” The key, Harper says, is to constantly switch up their workouts: “I do this by speed, amount of reps, heavy weights with low reps, light weights with high reps, and the actual exercises.” Not only does this stimulate the minds because you’re learning something new, but it also allows for better muscle formation. “You want to mix it up when your muscles adapt themselves to your current training,” says Harper. “The triggers are when you feel your muscle growth start to plateau, you mentally space outm or you have no desire to exercise. You also want to focus on your weaknesses and the parts of your body that are holding you back. This helps to create balance and confidence.”
Below, Harper offers simple swaps to get the most out of your workouts:
If you’re a runner …
Try This: Take a balancing class.
Reason: When you run, you use the same muscles repetitively. A balance class will wake up smaller muscles that also need to be worked and enhance your running performance overall.
If you’re a frequent gym-goer …
Try This: Hire a trainer to show you how to mix up your workout and properly stretch.
Reason: You want to work every muscle from every angle, and you want to break up your routine. It’s good for both the body and the mind.
If you worship at the church of SoulCycle …
Try This: Pick up yoga practice.
Reason: Increase your flexibility and decrease muscle imbalance for a better full-body workout.
If you’re a swimmer …
Try This: Go wall climbing.
Reason: Wall climbing increases muscle tone in different muscles than those you use swimming, so you create a well-balanced body. Plus, it challenges a different part of your brain, so it keeps you engaged.
If your personal trainer is your best friend …
Try This: Take a group class.
Reason: This will enable you to see what kind of shape others are in and give you a good point of reference to see if your trainer is truly pushing you.
If you’re a yogi …
Try This: Try a boot camp class.
Reason: This will improve your heart and muscle strength as well as increase your stamina. It’ll give you the type of intense cardio you can’t quite get from yoga practice alone.
If you’d rather take a nap than hit the gym …
Try This: Grab a friend and go for a hike.
Reason: Regular exercise is critical for good health, both physical and mental. If you’re not the fitness type, taking a hike with a friend will provide two distractions: the social aspect, and being outside exposed to nature. This will help you to go farther and do more—and you won’t even feel like you’re working out.
While Harper suggests trying a new exercise completely to create better balance, personal trainer Reggie Chambers says simple changes—perfect for those who fear change!—work too. “In order for the body to keep progressing, it needs shock, or changes to the workout. When you shock the body, it responds the way you want it to, by getting stronger, faster and burning more calories.”
Simple solutions include changing the order in which you do a workout, changing the pace (this is especially beneficial when you add in intervals), or adding reps or time to a routine. Sometimes, the key to getting out of your comfort zone—err, rut—is to start simply by making small, easily attainable changes and go from there.
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