This is it. A new year and an excellent opportunity to re-new your determination and re-launch your fitness program. Whether you made it to the holiday season on top of your fitness goals, or determined to pick up the pace in 2013, there’s probably a good argument that can be made for trying something new and changing things up a little bit. You don’t need to do this for the whole year. How about for the month of January?
I’ve found throughout my career that people tend to get comfortable when it comes to their training and exercise plans, sticking to the same program or activities for way too long. The approach that may have worked for the first 6 months probably stopped getting results long ago, and likely they didn’t know how to adapt or evolve for continued success. If you’re thinking that you might benefit from shaking things up a bit with your training plan, I’d like to offer a few suggestions.
Of course there are some constants when it comes to fitness, like the fact that you need to get your heart rate up if you want to burn a lot of calories and improve your cardiovascular capacity, or that you have to overload your muscles if you want to see adaptive changes in size, strength and endurance. Nutrition is also a key component of fitness where there are trusted principles, but you can definitely benefit by trying some new things with your meal planning this year.
I know from experience that change can be a good thing when you’re striving for fitness results, so try something new, mix up your approach, and shock your system a bit. Always remember to consult your doctor before beginning or modifying your training plan, and never skip the warm-up before exercising.
I know some readers will already be training differently, but I’m going to suggest that the majority of exercisers are performing a typical strength-training program, with a list of gym-based exercises that they perform for a specific number of sets and repetitions. This can be a very effective approach to resistance training, but not necessarily if you’ve been taking the same approach for years. Because our bodies are excellent at adapting to any consistent stimulus, it doesn’t take long to start seeing diminishing returns on your exercise investment. As an alternative, why not try a new approach for a month or so, like one or both of the following:
Bodyweight – Train using only bodyweight exercises where you push, pull, press and lift your own body to target different bodyparts non-stop for a total of 20-30 minutes. Use your imagination and change angles, body positions and anything else you can think of. Do each exercise until exhaustion before moving to the next exercise. Keep moving so you’re always working. Perform up to 5 days per week.
Bands – Similar to the bodyweight workout, but using only resistance band exercises to work your muscles in as many angles and directions as possible. Complete 20-30 minutes of constant pushing, pulling and pressing to muscular exhaustion. Perform up to 5 days per week.
Perhaps even more than strength training I find that many people do the same kind of cardio exercise for years, and sometimes even decades. The problem is, once your body becomes accustomed to an activity it will become very efficient, and get less of a conditioning stimulus from it. This may sound like a good thing, but if your goal is overload your system for calorie burn, or cardiovascular improvement, you don’t always want to take the easiest route! Instead, if you’re a runner, try swimming. If you’re a cyclist, try rowing. If you always use the elliptical machine, try skipping for a change-up.
Despite the high volume of nutrition information available to the public I still believe that most people eat poorly. Sometimes this is because they don’t know any better, but usually it’s because they have developed bad habits that they have a hard time changing. Why not shake it up and try a serious change? You might just break some deep-seated habits and gain a whole new level of control over your nutrition. Here are a couple of options:
Go green: Take a month and try a vegetarian, vegan or raw diet. You might just find that you feel better, have more energy, or love the food. Of course, this isn’t for everyone, but a month should give you a good idea if it’s right for you, and there’s a good chance you’ll clean up some of your bad eating habits.
Be sugar-free: Do everything you can to limit your sugar intake for a month. This includes white sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, honey, glucose, fructose, dextrose, invert sugar, syrups, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, and more. You’ll be surprised how much sugar is used in the food you eat.
–Rob Williams is a kinesiologist, elite personal trainer and posture specialist. He has been practicing for over 20 years and currently owns and operates Williams Health Group, a downtown Vancouver personal training studio and integrated health and human performance clinic. Rob is a sought-after posture and performance coach for celebrities and athletes of all levels, and has recently developed the Sport Posture and Movement Specialist certification program for trainers and coaches. Rob is also an accomplished writer and speaker in the fields of fitness, posture and nutrition. Contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.