Consistency is the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, right? But how do you know when it's time to change your routine? While consistency is good, there are a few signs that may indicate that it’s time to change your current workout.
1. You aren't seeing results anymore. The body adapts to exercise as a stressor. The more it is exposed to a specific type of stress, the more efficient it is in adapting to it. If the workout you have been doing for a while is no longer challenging, your body has likely adapted to the challenge and needs a new stimulus. The principle of adaptability can be applied to any format, from power lifting to yoga. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Change is necessary to progress and avoid the dreaded plateau.
2. You have nagging injuries, aches or pains. A good workout can sometimes leave you a little sore, but that soreness should subside within a few days. If exercise leaves you feeling drained, constantly sore or even emotionally spent, you may be experiencing symptoms of overtraining, which can quickly lead to injury. You can prevent injuries by including cross training, and/or varying the intensity level of your workouts. Aim to include some variation of strength training, cardiovascular activity and mobility movement to create balance and feel your best.
3. You are bored. If you find yourself cruising through your routine on autopilot, it’s likely time to mix it up. Periodically changing your workout is both physically and mentally stimulating. Boredom can easily turn to burnout, so keep yourself entertained and motivated by trying new things such as classes or outdoor workouts. Goal setting can also be a great way to enhance your focus and change your state of mind. Find a local event such as a race or competition and focus your efforts on preparation. Goals can be the catalyst for stepping outside your comfort zone and trying new things.
While each person progresses at his or her own rate and preference, it’s a good idea to change your routine approximately every six weeks. Change can be driven by the FITT principle, an acronym for four variables of fitness: frequency, intensity, time and type.
(F)requency is how often you complete your workout. You can increase or, in some cases, decrease the number of times you work out per week.
(I)ntensity is how hard you work out and can be measured by tracking heart rate or muscular stress. You can change the intensity of your workouts by altering things like load or speed. If you want to get more specific, use a heart-rate monitor or an exercise log/journal to measure your progress.
(T)ime is the duration of your workout and can be adjusted by adding steps, miles or time spent performing an activity. When altering duration, take into account the intensity of your activity. Typically, the harder you work, the less time you need to spend to achieve the same results. More is not always better and can sometimes lead to overtraining. However, if you are training to improve endurance, moderate- or low-intensity exercise performed for a longer period of time will provide the results you seek.
(T)ype is the format or mode of activity. Get out of your routine and change the kind of exercise that you usually do. For example, if you typically perform high-rep, low-volume strength training, try a low-rep, high-volume program once in a while. If you practice yoga most days of the week, try a cycle class or strength training to change things up.
There are a host of tools that you can use to keep your exercise routine fresh. Browse ACE Fit to download workout programs, and peruse the exercise library for inspiration on new moves. Many apps now feature workouts that you can follow on your smartphone. Add a group fitness class or two to your weekly schedule. Instructors routinely change the workouts for you, which ensures variety and challenge. Group experiences also provide a social component, which can make exercise more enjoyable. Finally, invest in the help of a personal trainer. If you enjoy working out on your own, a personal trainer can design a program specifically for you to help you meet your coals. Schedule monthly or bi-monthly sessions to refresh your program with your trainer.
If you change one or two of the FITT variables every six weeks, you will continue to see physical improvements. You are also more likely to look forward to your workouts, which will help you stay both motivated and consistent. Changes in routine can be gradual or you can jump into a new format tomorrow. Regardless of the changes you make, listen to your body to determine the approach that’s best for you.