“It says you’re supposed to change your workout regimen every 4 to 6 weeks,” said the woman with the bright pink pants, to her friend. They were discussing a magazine article while working out side-by-side on elliptical machines.
“That’s crazy,” stated her friend, Purple Pants, with a dismissive wave. “It’s hard enough to make myself go to the gym. Now I need to change my routine? I don’t think so.”
Pink Pants seemed to agree, opting to switch out Women’s Health for US Weekly.
Curious, I picked up the magazine and flipped to the piece, where a personal trainer (and fitness center owner) explained that if you want to see the fruits of your exercise, you need to incorporate some variety.
The answer is actually pretty simple. “The more you do something, the easier if becomes,” said Nick Tumminello, who says the best way to avoid hitting a plateau is by taking small steps, like trying a new class or substituting a long run with a swim session.
Interestingly, one of the signs that it’s time for a change is if your workout suddenly seems easier. For instance, rather than huffing and puffing while on the elliptical, you’re able to easily carry on a conversation … or read a magazine.
But for busy people, those “small” changes often require a lot of effort. For my husband, who prefers long runs, the decision to join a weekly beach workout group meant not only having to wake up very early on Fridays, but it also meant getting into the office later. What it did, however, was pull him out of a rut and help him achieve the results he wanted.
“Your body will continually see gains if you promise to continually push it,” stated Mike Donavanik, another fitness guru. “You’ll never know if you’ve met your limit unless you try to push your boundaries.”
But here’s the really interesting thing — your brain works the same way. It needs breaks from routine in order to thrive. The good news is that this can be done without being screamed at by someone who makes workout videos with words like “Extreme Burn” in the title.
In fact, it can be as easy as going to a museum, reading a book in a different genre, or taking up a new activity. For example, I was recently introduced to Sudoku, which is basically kryptonite to a right-brained person. It’s tough — very tough — but completing even a bronze-level puzzle provides me with a sense of accomplishment.
As it turns out, it’s also helping to expand my thinking (something I never thought I’d say about a math-related activity).
If none of these appeal to you, there’s the tried and true method of taking the long way home — or even a different way home, noted psychologist Serena Simmons. By charting a new course, you’re forcing your brain to process new information, and switch out of the auto-pilot mode that kicks in when doing something you’ve done countless times.
Don’t get me wrong — there is certainly room in our hectic lives for routines. They play a key role in completing mundane tasks like cleaning the house, driving the kids to camp, or reviewing T&E forms.
But they can also stifle the creative thinking that’s become so important in this rapidly-changing industry. So don’t be afraid to shake things up a bit — your brain and your body will thank you. Just don’t forget to it again in 4 to 6 weeks.