If magazines like Women’s Health or Fitness are considered a part of your required monthly reading (or, really, as long as you haven’t been living under a rock), you have probably learned that switching up your workout routine is vital. In addition to being a surefire way to speed up weight loss by ensuring that you’ll burn more calories, varying the things you do at the gym will ensure that your body is up for any challenge.
Now, if only I had listened…
Last week, I returned home from school for the long-awaited Christmas break and was informed by my mom that I would be accompanying her to her training session. She works out once a week with a nice (and semi-attractive) man who seems to be pretty un-intimidating, and seeing that she is a 52-year-old mom and I’m a 22-year-old rock star in pretty good shape, I figured that it would be a piece of cake. I can run on the treadmill, right? I can do bicep curls with ten pound weights! Bring it on!
Instead, I was forced to endure pull ups (I cannot do these), lunge and squat around the entire room while carrying crazy weighted sticks, lie down on that squeaky medicine ball while doing sit ups, fling around little black weights that looked like cowbells and bruised the inside of my wrists, and lower myself into numerous machines while I pushed and pulled and panted until I could barely breathe. Meanwhile, my mom was just humming to herself and completing her tasks without a word.
Five days later, I can still barely move. When I lift my arms to put my hair in a ponytail, shooting pains soar through my shoulders. Every time I sit down in a chair, my thighs burn. My shoulder blades ache when they press up against the seat of the car. And every time I take a step, I have to hunch over a little bit to ease the pain resulting in a Hunchback of Notre Dame-esque stride that I know must be pretty unattractive. My parents, my friends and my boyfriend are going to kill me if I complain of soreness another time, and I might just lose it if I still have to roll out of bed like a toddler just learning to walk tomorrow morning.
Now, I don’t need Shape to tell me that what I thought was a pretty legit exercise routine – my usual 45-minute run on the treadmill or stride on the elliptical – wasn’t really enough. I wasn’t lifting enough weights (so my strength was suffering), I wasn’t doing enough core work or improving my flexibility (since I kind of hate sit ups and never take Pilates or Yoga classes), and I wasn’t switching up my cardio.
While getting 45 minutes of exercise in each day is good, that alone will not get the job done. Variety is important. And that means variety within your cardio workout – like interval training – and variety in the types of workouts you do – like weight training, core training and flexibility. In order to burn the most calories and see the greatest results from your exercise routine, you must train your entire body, and you really gotta spice those workouts up in the process. Otherwise your body will get used to your routine and it won’t have to work as hard to complete it. Which means, over time, that 45 minutes on the elliptical will burn less calories. And still be just as boring.
As we sit on the cusp of a new year, it’s time to think about what you want to look and feel like in 2010. I don’t know about you, but I know for a fact that I don’t want to feel the pain of getting out of bed. Or sitting in a chair. Or brushing my hair. And I wouldn’t mind getting a little stronger and leaner.
Basically, I’m ready to make some major changes in my routine and you should, too. Sign up for some weight training classes on campus. Seek out a Pilates studio and build up that core. If you’re an elliptical rat, get on a treadmill and start running. Not only will these small changes make your workouts more interesting and effective, but your new strength will increase your endurance, making you able to get even better workouts in down the road.
It’s a win/win. Unlike my current situation, which is a pain/more pain.