To keep on achieving results from your fitness routine, it’s important to mix it up and keep the workouts interesting and productive. You can adapt some of these tricks indicated below for your own fitness routines, whatever your goals.
In cross training you engage in two or more types of exercises either in one workout or in successive workouts. For example, you might play football one day and swim laps the next. The great thing about cross training is that it keeps the workouts interesting, develops your entire body, and distributes the training load among different body parts. This reduces the risk of injury.
Cross training allows you to continue training when you’re injured, as long as you avoid using the injured area. If you sprain your wrist, you can still take a long walk.
Another thing to have in your bag of workout tricks is interval training, which is a method of varying the intensity of your workout session. Interval training entails alternating short bursts of intense activity with a less intense form of exercise. The secret to interval training is to exercise beyond your comfort level, but only in brief spurts. You can interval train with any aerobic exercise. You go all out for a minute, then you return to your normal pace. Then you go all out again at a high level of intensity, and return to your normal pace again. Interval training helps build muscle rapidly. Mix it in once or twice a week with your regular exercise, and you’ll leap over that exercise plateau.
When you start out, your interval to rest ratio should be about 1:3 so if you run fast for 20 seconds, walk for 1 minute. As you improve, decrease your recovery periods slowly so that your interval and recovery times are the same. You should also increase your intensity and the number of short bursts you do as you get better.
Increase the pace
An easy way to incorporate interval training into your workout is by spontaneously revving up the speed in whatever you’re doing. If you’re on a walk, walk for a while at a regular place, then walk as fast as you can for a minute or two, then walk slowly again. You can play games like running as fast as you can to a certain tree or lamppost, then walk for a few minutes and do it again. This type of exercise is sometimes called fartlek training.
Fartlek training (fartlek is a Swedish word that means ‘speed play) is a kind of interval training. Unlike regular interval training, fartlek training doesn’t involve accurately measured intervals. Instead, how you feel determines the length and speed of each interval.
I like fartlek training because I’d rather listen to my body instead of keeping my eye on a watch. I think it’s more fun to suddenly sprint until don’t feel like sprinting any more, then jog lightly until the next spontaneous outburst.
The hard-easy principle
The hard-easy principle is a standard training method that was created by a long-distance-running coach, It’s a method that is often used by runners, but can be applied to any exercise programme. The hard-easy principle dictates that in order to attain higher levels of fitness, a person should exercise intensely two or three times a week, and less intensely on the other days. So it’s two or three hard workouts separated by easier recovery days. This is based on the same theory that requires 48 hours between exercising muscle groups to give them time to recover.
On the hard days, the exerciser should overload (you should exercise long and hard enough to cause muscle ache) and on the easy days, underload. This will build speed and endurance. Follow that with an easy day where you don’t push yourself. You can incorporate the hard-easy principle into any fitness routine. For example you could sign up for an intense class like cardio kickboxing that meets 2 days a week, and on the other days, take a long walk, brisk jog or swim.
Circuit training is another excellent way to simultaneously improve mobility and build strength and stamina. The circuit-training format uses a group of six to ten exercises that are completed one right after the other. Each exercise is performed for a specified number of repetitions or for a prescribed time period before moving on to the next exercise. The exercises within each circuit are separated by little or not rest intervals, and each circuit is separated from the next by a longer rest period. The total number of circuits performed during a training session may very from two to six depending on your level of fitness and energy.
A superset is a method that is used primarily for strength training. In the superset method you do two or more exercises in a row, then rest. Normally, if you were to perform three sets of biceps curls, for example, you would rest before moving on to the next exercise. In a superset, after your set of biceps curls you go do the next exercise without stopping.
When you’re doing two exercises in a row, it’s important to train opposing muscle groups. Some exercises that go together in a superset are biceps curls and triceps dips, upright row and bench press, or leg extensions and ying leg curls. This method of strength training condenses exercise time and builds muscles quickly.
Try cross training, interval training, the hard-easy principle, circuit training, and supersets, and you’ll be exercising like a pro.