We’re all fitnessers here, which means we make time to work out regularly and eat things that are healthy most of the time. Good for us. But one thing to be wary of is falling into a routine, and letting our bodies be lulled into a state of meditative workout oblivion. Our bodies are adaptable, which is awesome from a survival perspective, but mildly annoying from a fitness perspective. What happens is your body gets more efficient, and tries to use less energy (burn less calories) to complete the same amount of work. Great job, body! If bodies were employees, we would all be very happy with this increased efficiency. However, what we’re actually getting is a plateau. Our workouts become less effective as our bodies adapt.
This is why you should keep adding goals to your workouts. Pushing yourself from week to week, instead of completing the same workout every time, will keep your body working hard and burning calories. Changing up either the type of workout or the intensity of the workout are the only ways to push through a plateau, or decreased results. Here are a few ways to make sure you Push It.
DAY TO DAY
Some people recommend switching up your workout every single day. I find that this feels a little arbitrary for me — I may be keeping my body guessing, but I’m also not really letting it get good at something. Mixing up your week is essential, but I tend to have a primary workout and varying supplementary workouts. For example, right now I’m focusing on running, so 4 out of 6 days have running workouts. Then I sprinkle in classes that focus on circuit training and core strength. In addition, I vary my running workouts. Some days have sprint and incline work, some are faster pace at moderate distances, and some are easy pace long runs. This way I feel like I’m training my body to get better at running, while still mixing up my workout, and getting training that will help support my running. But there’s enough variety in there that there’s no stagnation from day to day. You can choose anything for your primary / secondary workouts: heavy weightlifting supplemented with running or cycling, circuit training supplemented with yoga, spinning classes supplemented with circuit training — whatever works for you. Choose a system and try it out.
WEEK TO WEEK
Once you’ve gotten your workout week set, don’t just play it out every week. Measure your progress from week to week. This doesn’t mean that each week you have to run faster, at higher inclines, for longer distances, and do more burpees in a single minute during your circuit training. Increasing ALL intensities will land you likely with an injury and definitely burnt out. But pick a few things to measure, and try and make small progress each week. So again, as an example, my main focus is running, and within that I’m focusing on speed. So each week I’m not just completing a set amount of sprints, I’m trying to get just a little bit faster. And on my long runs, I’m not extending the distances just yet, I’m measuring how long it takes to complete them and seeing if I can shave a little bit off. In a month or two, I’ll switch the focus to be distance, which means I’ll still do sprint work, but it’s the distance of the runs that will grow each week. Really small and measured progress is a great way to meet goals sneakily. If your focus is heavy weightlifting, and you add a pound a week, it may seem like small potatoes, but at the end of a year you’ll be lifting 50 pounds more than you did at the start. Don’t just show up and do the same thing you did last week. Take what you’ve already done and try and push just a little harder. No amount of progress is too small.
MONTH TO MONTH
Month to month is where the big shifts can happen. It may not be with your primary workout, because if you’re making slow and steady progress with something you’ll probably want to stick with it for a while and keep pushing yourself. But every couple of months, try to switch it up. Change your supplementary workouts and try something new. You may find that you find something you like even better, and slowly shift that to be your primary focus. Working out doesn’t have to be waking up and running the same 5 miles everyday for the rest of your life. Your interests, your schedule, an injury, the weather, will all affect what your workout of choice will be. Maybe you run outside in the spring, and swim at a local pool when the weather gets warm enough, and the wintertime is for heavy lifting. Your fitness interests will change, you’ll get bored, or lose motivation in one area, and that’s okay. It’s better for your body (and your mind) to keep switching it up.
So a lot of small progress and variations will help keep your body from adapting to your workout, helping you avoid hitting a fitness plateau. It will also help keep you interested, so you don’t get bored and peace out from fitnessing. It’s important to let your workouts grow and change as your lifestyle does. Also, it feels pretty badass to get better and better at something, so you’ll do a lot to boost your self esteem too. Self efficacy FTW.