Exercise should be routine in the sense that you make the time each day to do it. Having a set time to exercise helps you stay on track and avoid missing workouts. But sometimes a routine can become a bit too routine. That’s when you need to shake things up a little. With so many ways to get a heart-pumping, muscle-defining workout, you’ll never run out of ways to get and stay fit. Here are four signs it’s time to change your workout and challenge your body in a different way.
You’re No Longer Seeing Results
When you first begin working out, even low-intensity exercise delivers results. That’s because it’s a new stimulus. Over time your body adapts to the same exercises and you reach a plateau. Plateaus are frustrating because you stop seeing gains. They’re also a sure sign that it’s time to make a change.
If you currently do mostly moderate-intensity cardio, add a HiiT workout once or twice a week to your fitness routine. High-intensity interval training will challenge your body in a new way and enhance your aerobic and anaerobic fitness level. Why not add a power component to your cardio training with plyometrics?
Have you stopped seeing result from resistance training? Time to change things up. Even minor changes like altering the order you do exercises or changing the rest time between sets can help you restart the growth process. Reduce the the number of isolation exercises you’re doing and focus more on compound exercises that work multiple muscle groups. Slow down the eccentric portion of the exercise to place more tension on the muscle. Try drop sets or supersets.
Change the structure of your workouts by doing pyramids or reverse pyramids. Try cross-training to keep your muscles guessing and reduce your risk for overuse injury. The key is to make a change to what you’re currently doing. Then make sure you’re eating enough protein and enough calories to promote muscle growth and that you’re giving your body enough recovery time between sessions.
You No Longer Feel Challenged
Have you reached a point where your current “go-to” workout seems easy? Congratulations! It feels easier because you’re in better shape. Rather than “coasting along” and breezing through your daily workout without breaking a sweat, find a new way to challenge your body.
As mentioned, HiiT training is a way to up the challenge and intensity. If you’re already doing HiiT training, vary the type of exercise you do during the active intervals, increase the intensity or change the duration of the active and rest intervals to “tweak” your workout. Doing this make HiiT training more challenging and interesting. Tabata training, 8 cycles of 20 seconds work and 10 seconds rest, at near maximum effort is another effective way to challenge your body and work both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems.
You’re Focused Too Much on Cardio
Cardio does good things for your heart. Plus, it burns calories and increases your endurance, but it has limitations. Cardiovascular exercise doesn’t build strength or lean body mass. In fact, cardio combined with dieting, can lead to loss of lean muscle tissue. You begin to lose muscle mass after the age of 30 and you need strong muscles to stay functional as you age, so don’t make cardio your only focus. If you’re doing 40 minutes of cardiovascular exercise and 10 minutes weight training at the end of your workout, you’re too cardio heavy.
Even if you’re trying to lose body fat, doing a cardio-heavy workout is shortsighted. Muscle tissue is metabolically active, unlike fat. Having more muscle gives you calorie-burning advantages. One reason men have an easier time losing weight is because they have more metabolically active muscle tissue working in their favor. Make sure at least 50% of your workout time is devoted to resistance training. Resistance training builds functional strength and improves bone density too. Be sure your workout is balanced.
You’re Constantly Sore or Injured
The goal of fitness training is to improve your fitness level, enhance your body composition and boost your overall health without injury. It takes a certain amount of stress and overload to change your body but you shouldn’t feel constantly sore or have chronic, low-grade injuries. When you work the same muscles repeatedly in the same way, especially if you’re doing high-impact workouts, you’re at higher risk for overuse injury.
If this sounds like you, step back and take a closer look at your workout. Are you varying the muscles you work and the types of exercise you’re doing? Are you giving yourself enough recovery time between workouts? If you’re also suffering from lack of energy and fatigue, take a few days off to rest and recover. Use that time to plan your workout strategy. If you do a HiiT workout one day, do a less intense form of exercise, like yoga, the next day. Recovery time becomes even more important as you age.
In terms of weight training, make sure you’re not working the same muscle groups within 48 hours of one another. Alternate high-intensity weight training to build strength with muscle endurance workouts using lighter weights and higher reps. Periodizing your weight training workouts can also help you avoid overtraining and overuse injuries.
The Bottom Line?
Routines are good in some ways but too much routine leads to stagnation, boredom and plateaus. Look at your workout routine with fresh eyes every few months. Even better keep a fitness journal so you can more easily see when you need to make changes. You have so many options for getting and staying in shape. Take advantage of them.
ACE Fitness. “6 Signs It’s Time to Switch Up Your Workout”