We all know the type, the runner who logs five miles every morning, or the cyclist who’s done the same spin class for three years without missing a day. But we’ve also heard that mixing up our workouts is key to all-around fitness. And that, friends, couldn’t be any truer.
According to leading exercise physiologists, any kind of physical activity is generally good, but changing your exercise routine frequently will help your body reap maximum benefits.
Mixing up your workouts keeps muscles in check.
Doing the same thing every day increases your chance of injury from using the same muscles over and over. Think of a runner who suffers hip or hamstring pain after consistently running six days in a row. Also, too much of the same repetitive activity or stress on the body will not allow adequate recovery. So, alternate running days with yoga or try going on a swim instead of another jog.
A workout variety helps your body burn all types of fuel.
We all know that we burn both carbohydrates and fat during our workouts, as our bodies need both for fuel. But Experts agree that changing your routine to focus on one more than the other helps your body work more efficiently overall. Short, intense workouts — like doing sprints on a stationary bike — burn carbohydrates, while longer, sustained workouts — like a moderate trail run — burn fat. When alternating between the two, your body’s recovery will boost and your performance abilities.
Changing your routine will keep your body and mind guessing.
“Whenever you get bored of your workout, an alarm should go off in your head that it’s definitely time for something new,” says Tara Romeo, a sports director at New York’s Professional Athletic Performance Center.
Doing the same thing day after day not only stops your body from making improvements, but it also bores you out of showing up to the gym for a new challenge.
So how — and how often — should we mix it up?
Exercise experts that I’ve consulted with recommend changing a workout routine completely every 4 to 6 weeks, while also switching up the exercises you do from day to day. Change from a weight machine to free weights when doing strength training, for example, or from cycling to swimming for cardio. Even running uphill on a treadmill one day versus running downhill outside on another works a different sets of muscles.
When you switch it up, your body is fighting harder to keep the pace. In other words, it is finding ways to adapt, whether that’s building bigger and more muscle cells or recruiting more muscle motor units and burning more fat than carbs. The end result will continue to be the same: gains in performance and a healthy, happy body.
Indeed, I will gladly take that.