It’s 7:00 in the morning. The sun hasn’t quite risen yet, but you can see the first rays of light peeking over the horizon. I’m on the beach with my partners-in-crime planning the Saturday morning boot camp. We’re setting up equipment that you have probably never seen in a gym. Sand bags, a large rope, a black strap with loops for handles … these will be our tools. The workout is grueling, fun, and full of variety.
If you ever spend five minutes speaking with me about fitness, you’ll find out pretty quickly that variety is a very important part of my philosophy. This is true for a number of reasons. First of all, it helps to prevent boredom. There’s almost nothing more detrimental to program adherence than a stale workout. Secondly, variety makes us well rounded in the fitness sense. Have you ever seen someone (or maybe you’ve experienced it yourself) in seemingly good shape try something new? They are completely wiped out by the end and sore for a week! I read about it all the time from fitness pros who write articles for magazines. “I thought I was fit, but I tried this new class last week and it completely blew me away. “I’m going to use a made up term here. The more things we incorporate into our fitness routine, the more “comprehensively fit” we become.
Here are ten guidelines for keeping your routine varied.
1) Have three workouts. One workout (your A workout) will be your main, hard-core workout when you want to get results for a specific event (like swimsuit season). Another workout (your B workout) will be easier. You’ll spend less time in the gym and use less intensity. This will be your time to recover from your A workout without completely stopping. Finally, your C workout will be used for variety. This is the time to do something completely different, like basketball or kayaking. I sprinkle in the C workout three or four times each year. Keep your body guessing, and you’ll be a harder target for plateaus.
2) Don’t stick with any workout for more than 8 weeks. My preference would be to keep it between four and six weeks. Stick with a workout too long, and the results will diminish over time.
3) Don’t stick with any workout for less than 2 weeks. Your body does need some stability. You have to give it a chance to adapt a little. Otherwise your body adapts to the variety and it becomes less effective. I guess what I’m saying is mix up your variety with a little monotony!
4) Think outside of the box. Pretty much all of the fitness certifications teach the acronym FITT (Frequency, Intensity, Time, and Type) as the parameters that can be manipulated. We have to start thinking beyond those parameters. We want to start changing up other elements like the order of exercises, the amount of rest between sets, nutrition, and anything else we can come up with. Take a look at some of the long-held tenets of exercising. Can we change those up (for short periods)? For example, can we work a muscle two days in a row and then give it a couple days rest? Can we only do one set of an exercise, rather than the conventional three to five? Could we actually reap any cardiovascular benefits from training all-out for two minutes and then being done? (I should note that some of these suggestions are omitted from fitness programs for safety reasons, and you should consult with a qualified professional before you even think about trying them. But hey, I just threw them out to stimulate some creativity).
5) Increase your awareness. Take a look around. New things are everywhere. In magazines, on television, and probably even in your gym – just about every gym has one of those guys or gals who are always doing some weird-looking stuff. Ask them about it, maybe you could “borrow” some of the exercises.
6) Always keep safety in mind. I mentioned before that it’s a good idea to consult with qualified professionals before implementing some less-conventional ideas into your program. When you want to try something new, take a good look first. Ask yourself if it looks at all dangerous. Maybe it’s not for you. Maybe it’s just not for you yet, but it could be in the future.
7) Try working out with someone new. If you normally work out alone, find a partner. If you have a partner, bring in a third or fourth person. Everybody approaches exercise differently. Everybody has his or her own interpretations and ideas. Training with someone new will give you fresh insights that otherwise would never have been exposed to you.
8) Consult with a qualified professional. I know, I know … this is the third time I’ve brought this up, but you have to admit it’s not a bad idea! Let me explain my semantics for a minute. I would assume that when I say “professional” most people’s minds would immediately picture a personal trainer. While this is a very viable option, it isn’t the only option. I do recommend working with a qualified personal trainer, but there are also plenty of other professionals out there who could help you come up with new ideas. Coaches, dance teachers, martial arts instructors, physical therapists, and the list goes on and on.
9) Have fun. The bottom line is that if you dread your workouts, you’re much more likely to skip them. One of the most powerful weapons you have in the battle of the bulge is your consistency of working out. If you know you’re doing something fun, you may just stick with it!
10)Have a plan. Have a Frankenprogram. A Frankenprogram is basically when somebody takes a piece of this and a bit of that and pieces together a program. On the surface, it could easily seem like that’s what I’m telling you to do here, making me a huge hypocrite. So let me tie it all together and explain myself. Way back in suggestion #1, I explained the A, B, and C workouts.
Most of the suggestions I’ve made in this article should go into your C workouts. Your A and B workouts should be structured and standardized. When changes are made to these programs, they should be methodical and purposeful. I’m going to play with semantics again and say that your workouts should be inconsistently consistent, rather than consistently inconsistent. Plan your A and B workouts, have fun with your C workouts!