Exercise Boredom got you?
Are YOU guilty of doing the same exercise routine day in and day out? I see this often in my practice as a physiotherapist in Squamish, BC. Some of us are creatures of habit but there are some good reasons to change it up once in a while. Here are some of them.
Being active is supposed to be a lifelong pursuit. Changing up an exercise routine helps to promote motivation and create a “lifestyle” of exercise. When I talk about doing the SAME exercises, I mean the exact moves, in the same order, using the same resistance, for the same number of reps week after week. For some, this has been going on for years. Routine is comfortable but not exactly going to move you to be excited and engaged about a life of physical activity, is it? TIP: Most regular exercise programs should change every 6 weeks to maximize benefits. If you are going to make the time to exercise, why not get the most benefit. Changing an exercise program can be as simple as modifying the order of your exercises, increasing some of the intensity or resistance as appropriate or changing the “form” the exercise takes (elastic bands instead of dumbbells is just one possibility). See below for 10 Ways to change things up.
Secondly, having a bit of variety to your routine can help you achieve your goals more quickly and effectively. Let’s say you plan on backpacking along the Inca Trail in Peru in six months (ie. considerable elevation) but your daily exercise routine is to walk (at sea level) on flat soft chip trails at a mellow pace for 45 minutes with a coffee in hand. To bridge the gap between your current activity and your goal, some variety is key. You could add some hills, some different/rocky terrain, some increased intensity, wearing a pack etc etc. This will help ease your body into increasing levels of fitness through a process called “adaptation” so that the anticipated activity isn’t a shock to the body!
Which brings me to the last of my “change it up” benefits and that has to do with creating new neural pathways. What is a neural pathway, you ask? Very good question. I like to use an analogy of an obscure trail in the woods that’s hard to pick out due to the branches covering the trail & the recent growth. As the trail gets used more and more, it becomes more defined and obvious to follow. Left for many years with heavy use, eventually it could become a super-highway if it is the most established point from A to B. This is how I see pathways developing between the cortex (where movement is “planned”) to the muscles (where movement is executed). Learning a new task or changing a skill challenges us by demanding that new neural pathways get created (the new path in the woods). We recruit muscles in different patterns, perhaps increasing our muscles mass being increasing its use. By moving in a new way, we might take our joints through different ranges of motion, which helps provide lubrication to the joint. This makes me think of the old adage “use it or lose it”. Creating new neural pathways may be able to keep your joints feeling younger and your muscles primed and ready for activity!
So, having established that a little break in routine could do your body good, here are 10 WAYS YOU CAN CHANGE IT UP!
If you normally exercise indoors, go outside. If you normally play outside, see how others get fit by going to the swimming pool or a taking a class at a local fitness facility, especially when the weather isn’t cooperating!
Get a new gadget! Maybe you can go “techie” and pick up a GPS, heart rate monitor or just a simple pedometer. Or try the latest in “get fit gear” such as a Bosu, TRX system or some kettle balls. Curious? Do a google search.
Change partners! If you normally exercise alone, bring a friend along who is at a different fitness level than you- it will either push you a bit more or allow you to slow down and appreciate new elements. Always surrounded by a group? How about heading out alone and reveling in the sound of your own (heavy) breathing for something different.
Turn an activity into exercise by picking up the pace a little (put on your iPod while cleaning, washing your car, raking leaves and add a few dance steps for a more energetic pace).
Pick up a fitness magazine. See what’s new. Not all these exercises are recommended, of course, but maybe your can scoop a variation on an old standby.
Watch one of the many weight loss shows like The Biggest Loser or The Last Ten Pounds Bootcamp. Not only could you be inspired, you might find some new moves too.
Hire a personal trainer and let THEM come up with the new challenging exercises. This could likely lead to working a little harder than you would alone (AKA getting your butt kicked, this is a good thing every once in a while!)
Sign up for an event. First marathons and first triathlons are very popular events to get people making changes in their exercise routine. Find an event, register so that you commit to it and start a progressive training program. There are many resources both online and in person to help you with this.
Exergaming. Yes, this word was new to me too. It refers to the use of video game platforms to do active movements such as WiiFit.
If you normally do SLOW activities, challenge yourself with something faster or vice versa. Love yoga, add in some cardio and you will create a balanced body. If you’re always doing some cardio, maybe you need to make time for a little stretching
I encourage you to post your own suggestions below. Comments have a short delay before they appear so please be patient. Thanks for reading and stay tuned for next week’s post on breaking through a plateau in your fitness level.
Clinic Owner of Reach Physio Solutions