It's fitting to change your routine

FITNESS COLUMNIST

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By FRAN SCOTT

Do you go to the gym and do the same routine over and over? Are you bored? Have you hit a plateau in your weight loss or fitness level? Studies support that varying your routine can help you circumvent plateaus and bring you to a new level of fitness.

Adding variety to a stale workout routine can help keep you interested, inclining you to work out with more consistency. Consistency is a fitness or weight loss goal's best friend. In a recent study, 30 percent of 'frequent' health club users (more than 100 days/year) reported being 'very/extremely' successful with their weight loss strategy.

More reason to vary your routine: your body adapts to physical stimuli after about 6-8 weeks. Changing your routine at this point causes your body to re-adapt and increases its capacity to accommodate the new challenge. In other words, fitness level goes up. Studies indicate that by varying training techniques every six weeks, participants report higher strength and cardiovascular gains than groups who don't vary their routine.

Lastly, varying your routine can reduce your risk of overuse injury. Runners are particularly at risk for developing these injuries, but any repetitive task or sport can put you at increased risk. Cycling indoors during the winter season is a great way for runners to give the tendons and ligaments of the legs a break

To add variety to your strength training, change the exercises that you currently do for each major muscle group. For example for your chest muscle group, perform an inclined dumbbell fly instead of a bench press. This is a different exercise for the same muscle group. The other major groups are the shoulders, triceps, legs, biceps, back and abdominals. There are hundreds of books and several magazines for men and women that illustrate different exercises for each of these groups. *Fit Tip: Keep a folder for each major muscle group so that when you come across an exercise in a magazine, you can tear it out and save it for reference. Other ways to vary your strength routine are to change volume (sets and repetitions), change the order of exercises, change the weight, or change the technique. A new technique might be to perform back-to-back opposing group exercises such as a leg extension followed by a leg curl.

To add variety to your cardiovascular training, consider cross training. Studies report that this alone yields higher fitness than using the same training mode. Like I said, Spinning (indoor cycling) is a fantastic cross trainer for runners, but other modes to consider include the elliptical trainer, rower, versa-climber, Step Class and swimming. The idea is to do something different. More ways to vary cardio training involve intervals, or just setting a goal that is outside of what you can readily accomplish. Intervals train the anaerobic system and can be accomplished with high intensity bouts lasting from 30 seconds to three minutes, followed by an equal or greater recovery time. Perform repetitively for a total of 30 minutes. For example 30 seconds sprint, 30 seconds walk; however, for injury prevention it's best to perform interval training using a non-impact mode such as the elliptical trainer.

But if getting to the gym for a mental break is mainly what you're interested in or you're happy with your fitness level, then it's completely acceptable to continue in your usual routine.

E-mail: Franscottfitness@hotmail.com

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