Doing the same thing at the gym, but not getting the results you want? There is a reason, you know. Your body gets used to the workout you've favored for quite a while. It feels good because your body likes the status quo. Eventually, you adapt to the demand on your body. The problem is you've body is no longer challenged, so you won't burn more calories, increase your endurance, nor build your strength. Something must change eventually to see progress toward your fitness and health goals.
Several of my clients used to do the same routine every workout because they didn't have to think during their workouts. Usually, they hopped on a machine, checked their brains out because they had to think all day at work, then go home. These well-intentioned people became frustrated after a few years because their bodies were changing with age, but their routines were stale. Dissatisfaction got the better of them one day. It was then they realized what felt good was not necessarily good. For those who needed less thinking, they hired me to write a progressive schedule and teach it to them. For those who were bored to tears, some became long-term clients who really enjoyed variety. Others discovered classes were their best option for a busy schedule with less thought investment. Without progressive overload there is no progress.
What is GAS?
People make progress by getting GAS (General Adaptation Syndrome). Essentially, your body is challenged in a progressive manner with overload through time, intensity, load, and type of exercise. As you are challenged, your body adapts to the new stresses. Yes, there is a bit of discomfort you should feel with these new challenges, but you should not feel pain. A day or two after a workout is when you feel it most. The best way to work this discomfort out is to work out. You only need to manipulate one or two things in your workout to see results.
Help is Here
Have you hit the wall with your workouts? If you want to see progress, here are some ideas to help you get past that wall:
- Increase your time in cardio by 5-10 minutes, increase the resistance or grade (treadmill), or speed. Pick one, spend a week on it, then pick another to change. You can also mix it up.
- Take your running or walking to a track, trail, or sand. This simple change has an amazing effect on your cardio endurance because you push off a hard surface instead of a moving belt on a platform with give. Sand challenges your stabilizing muscles.
- Take your bike routine from the cardio center to a spinning class or to the bike trails. Sitting in one place with your mind numbed by the t.v. keeps you from actually feeling what your body is doing. A spinning class has the routine changed by the instructor. Going to bike trails changes demands because of the terrain and other factors you won't get in the cardio center.
- Strength and weight loss challenges can be made by either increasing repetitions, weight, moving to compounds, changing to multiple set demands, or changing the order of your exercises. Changes you can make in your current routine to make it challenge your body again.
- Increase time, intensity, or load. Play around with the tempo of your strength exercises by changing from a 2-4, to a 4-2, 6-4 cadence, or super slow. Warning: if you do super slow sets, drop your weight! You can also do a more explosive set, but ,again, drop your weight by 5-10 pounds to avoid injury. Of course, you can always increase the weight you lift by 2-5 pounds.
- Try new methods. For example, instead of doing pec fly on a bench, try using the cable machine with the cable cross exercise. Instead of doing a basic squat with your hand weights, use a kettlebell in the center, or do a negative squat with cables. You can find variations for your exercises with ACE Fitness Library or Bodybuilding.com.
- Re-arranging the order of the exercises. I was taught to start with the lower body, go to the upper body, then the core: larger muscles to smaller muscles. Once you've been doing these for quite a while, try core, upper body, then lower body. When that is easy, try smaller muscles to larger muscles. Warning: those smaller muscles and core muscles supporting all of your exercises will tire quickly!
- Try 3 sets, but change how you do your sets. Most people like to do the same weight, but decrease the number of reps. Instead, try dropping your weight in sets 2 and 3. You can also start with a lower weight and lift to fatigue (not failure). Go to a slightly higher weight by 2-5 pounds, then lift to fatigue. Do one more set with slightly higher weight.
Always cool down with light cardio for 5-10 minutes to recirculate the blood in your extremities, then do 5-10 minutes comprehensive stretching to reduce the muscle soreness. After a couple of weeks, you will see progress again.
Have a happy workout session!