Thursday, April 16, 2009

Preventing Plateaus

Here is a great article I read the other day by fitness guru Kim Lyons. I wanted to pass it on - enjoy!

Everyone experiences workout boredom, even me! The key to staying motivated is to continue to switch up your exercise routines with different methods of training. Plateaus happen when your body adjusts or adapts to your routine. This is not always a bad thing, you should think of it more as a reaching a new level. It is just means it’s time to challenge your body in a new way.
There are endless ways of training, and often times need to get creative. Even simple little games like alternating between jogging 100 steps then walking 100 steps … or skip for a song on your ipod, then jog for a song, and then walk for the next. The possibilities are endless. Just thinking of different little games will keep your mind busy!

When it comes to resistance training, I highly recommend circuit training. For example..
My favorite workout circuits alternate between lower-body resistance-training moves, to elevate your heart rate, and upper-body moves, to allow you to recover, giving you an interval training effect that burns tons of calories and develops incredible endurance!

Because of the continuous nature of circuit training, you’ll get all the benefits of resistance training, have a great cardiovascular workout, and maximize your training time. After your workout circuit, you’ll perform a flexibility circuit, which stretches all your major muscle groups, improving range of motion, decreasing muscle soreness, and helping alleviate chronic pain.

Some Benefits of Circuit Training are that it…

Saves time
Incorporates cardio and resistance training in one workout
Burns tons of calories
Works your heart, lungs, and muscles all at once
Engages your mind as well as your muscles
Basically it is an effective, time-efficient, calorie-blasting way to train and the combinations are endless!

Another great way to mix up your routine is to do what I call a “Body-Part Blast”. Tailor your circuit workouts to hit specific body parts you’d like to improve. If you want more definition in your arms, for example, assemble an all-upper-body workout from the moves you’ve mastered. Do this workout twice a week and your lower-body/cardio workouts twice a week; you’ll still be hitting all your body parts, just in a different way.

You can also do interval training, which is repeating intervals of a relatively light intensity, such as walking, interspersed with a higher intensities, such as jogging or running.For example, if you're going to use the treadmill for your cardio routine, and our Heart Rate Calculator estimated that between 110 and 140 beats per minute was the best heart rate range for you … then you could spend the first 5 minutes walking to serve as your warm-up, then either increase the incline or start a light jog for 3 minutes at a heart rate of around 110 ... then 2 minutes of a little faster jog, or steeper incline, at 120 bpm ... then90 seconds at a faster jog at 130 bpm ... and then 60 seconds jogging at the same speed but a bit steeper incline, at around 140 bpm ... and then back to walking at a lower incline to drop your heart rate to 115 for a couple of minutes, and so on.

This "interval training" technique is very effective; studies show that you not only gain more benefit during the actually exercise session, but you'll actually burn more calories throughout the day. Plus, it's a lot less boring than doing the same intensity throughout the cardio session. Many cardio machines actually have built in interval programs for you to choose.

Another great idea to make your cardio workout interesting is to do what’s called “composite training.” This is a great way to break up your routine and work different muscle groups too. As long as your heart rate is around your estimated heart rate range for the entire duration, that's what matters. Composite training is simply combining two or more different cardiovascular exercises, one after the other, for the full duration.

Here's an example: you could start by walking on a treadmill for 10 minutes ... and then quickly move to the elliptical for an additional 10 minutes ... and finish the cardio session up with a final 10 minutes on the stationary bike. You can even add in a fast walk or jog into the mix!This "composite training" technique makes cardio exercise a lot less boring and if you integrate the "interval training" technique with it, your workout will not only fly by, you'll have maximized the time and energy you put into it for the best results.

Here are a few more simple ideas to help you out!

Check out some local hiking trails on line and put in some cardio time on the trails.
Go to a track and do some sprints or walk the bleachers – or a combination of both.
Try a new sport such as snowboarding, skiing, or surfing.
Use a free day pass at a local gym to try spinning, pilates, yoga, or another interesting class.
Try a new machine at the gym, even if it looks scary! It probably isn’t as bad as you’ve made it out to be!