Stuck in a Fitness Rut? Turn Up the Volume...Or Just Change Channels.

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • This is a common thing: you finally find an exercise routine you can stick with, you go guns a'blazin' for a few weeks and then...nothing. It's boring. You'd rather do a million other things than, well, THAT anymore.


    Alternatively, you never tire of your routine, doing it day-in/day-out but are no longer getting the results you once enjoyed.


    Either of these scenarios ever apply to you? Me too.


    On any given day, the seasons are changing with what I feel like doing, fitness-wise, and I see this as a blessing because our muscles actually have memory. As we tend to use the same groups of muscles for a repeated activity, over time we essentially become resistant to the routine if we do it too frequently. The muscles "remember" and learn to work more efficiently. This equals fewer results for same work done. Not cool.

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    So that's why it is great idea to change things up on a regular basis...your muscles never get too used to one thing, you don't get bored, and you keep seeing results.


    How to turn up the volume on your tried and true routine or breathe some new life into it by changing the channel? Here are some ideas:


    Turn Up the Volume


    Get the right gear

    The right equipment and outfit can literally make or break your sporting performance.


    Perfect example: in Spinning class, you need to have the right shoes-the ones that actually clip into the pedals. Without these, you are just not getting the same level of workout. You also need to have a heart-rate monitor to truly track and challenge yourself along with your instructor.


    Each sport or fitness activity has its own "gear requirements." Do a little research, make these small adjustments and see how the dynamics change.


    Get some new music

    Studies have shown that music can distract you from feelings of fatigue and can function as a stimulant to psych you up or as a sedative to calm you down. But sometimes, you just need some new music...that same old Madonna track just isn't doing it anymore?


    What I did recently: I had an old school Walkman but radio plays too many commercials; I like my iPod but found it too time-intensive to update it with new songs. So I got a portable satellite radio to boost my motivation---it worked! They have dozens of commercial-free (or almost commercial-free) stations that never get old.


    Shake it up and rock it out

    You're a walker? Get a pedometer...see if you are reaching the recommended 10,000 steps a day. 10,000 steps easy-breezy? Track your time. Each day, challenge yourself and try to cut some time off your walk by increasing your overall speed.


    Another idea: try alternating your walks with sprints. Make it a game. If you walk in a neighborhood, do 2 mailboxes walking, next 2 sprint, and so on and so on...


    The point is, take your usual routine and change it to challenge yourself and make it more fun. Give yourself a goal that you can reach and then modify yet again to recreate yet another internal competition.


  • Do intervals

    Mixing cardio with strength training is a great way to shake things up. One personal trainer I know recommends a 20-minute initial warm-up of moderate cardio (examples: the elliptical, a fast walk or jog on the treadmill). This is followed by alternating 3 sets of strength training exercises with 2 minutes of cardio. This continues for a full hour.


    It is amazing how mixing it up can make the hour fly by so much faster.



    Change the Channel

    Can't step up to one more step class? Down dogs got you down? Try one of these off-the -beaten-path ideas and see what happens.

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    Bikram Yoga

    You definitely need to get medical clearance for this one, particularly if you have any pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease or if you are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant.


    Bikram yoga is the "hot yoga" and boy is it ever! Be prepared to sweat like nobody's business for a full 90 minutes of a regimented and synchronized yoga routine.



    Speaking of pregnancy, I did this all throughout my second pregnancy.


    I felt like the ultimate Earth Mother as I danced, moved and bonded with my fellow Nia enthusiasts. I was surprised at what a great cardio workout it is, while also being pleasantly taken with its spiritual aspects as well. Nia is a mind-body-spirit fitness regimen that combines diverse movements including dance and marital arts.



    A different approach to core strength training (along the lines of Pilates), these classes utilize the big round fitness ball. You will be taken through a series of exercises to strengthen your abdomen, back, buttocks, thighs, arms and more. Not so much cardio, but I guarantee, if you do this right, you will feel it! I have awakened muscles I didn't even know were there with this one.


    Water Aerobics

    I checked this out most recently after the birth of my daughter. I was carrying some extra weight, I was nursing, and my breasts were not my own. The water was a welcome respite from the other cardio I was doing (or not doing, as it were). What is particularly appealing: these classes really make you feel weightless and are super easy on the joints.


    Boot Camp

    Many of my friends have joined the boot camp brigade. This is a great idea if you are motivated by others suffering just as much as you are.


    Getting up at the crack of dawn and getting it over with, you go through a series of cardio and strength exercises delivered to you by your "drill instructor". These are usually 60 to 90 minutes long. I'm not sure because I'm still sleeping.



    This is a new one for me. MAT stands for Muscle Activation Therapy. This is not so much a work-out as it is a way to maximize your favorite sporting activity participation.


    In MAT, a trained professional attempts to identify and correct muscular imbalances that can cause chronic pain and injury. It begins with an assessment of your muscle strength and range of motion. The therapy involves isometric exercises and precision manual therapy (kind of like a trigger point massage but the pressure is directed at muscle attachments rather than the belly of the muscle). I did this to minimize back issues I felt recently after running and found it very helpful.


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    You might gather, I am always one for a little fitness experimentation. I'll let you know what else I get into over the coming months.


    Yours in the journey,


Published On: January 03, 2008