Routine is fantastic. I mean it. I absolutely love routine. It can make your life productive and efficient. But here’s the thing, routine exercise can lead to complete and utter stagnation and stand between you and your goals.
Diminishing returns. The problem is that most people do the same activity/workouts day after day, week after week. If you consistently do the same activity at the same work load your body adapts quite easily and finds that it does not need to make further adaptations to sustain your routine. This adaptation happens fast, sometimes too fast.
When you begin an exercise program you may find you are making leaps and bounds in the right direction, seemingly no matter what you do. However, you will always end up plateauing. You see, it’s a double-edged sword. In a way plateauing is a great thing, you have adapted to exercise and your body is more efficient. But the obvious disadvantage is that you aren’t burning as many calories or getting any faster or stronger.
THE THREE PILLARS OF EXERCISE PROGRESSION
Progression is the name of the game. You have INTERLINKED three factors to manipulate.
- Intensity of the activity (can be measured by heart rate or perceived exertion)
- Duration of the activity (basically elapsed time or number of repetitions)
- Volume of work (essentially distance covered – or total weight lifted – daily, weekly, or even monthly)
Indeed all three are quite obvious and yet they are still often overshadowed by Consistency. Sure, it’s important to be consistent but not at the expense of PROGRESS!
FOR WEIGHT LOSS
For starters, the best way to lose weight is by doing a variety of exercises and activities. Of course you always want to favor the exercise you find most tolerable and the least psychologically draining. Mixing some resistance training with an endurance activity like cycling or jogging will help increase your metabolism and promote weight loss. Even then, you want to alternate the intensity, duration, and volume of these sessions. And keep in mind that progress only comes with rest. That’s really the underlying principle of all of this. With smart progression of the three pillars YOUR EASY DAY SURPASSES YOUR OLD DEFINITION OF A HARD DAY.
You may have also read about high intensity interval training (HIIT) as a great way to lose weight and get fit. This is absolutely true but it’s another case where doing the same HIIT workout over and over can lead to stagnant results and burnout. Never do the same workout more than twice in a week, especially these intense workouts like HIIT.
FOR RUNNING & ENDURANCE TRAINING
Instead of running or jogging 30 minutes every time, try running 40 minutes one day and maybe just 20 minutes the next. You’ll average the same duration but improve your endurance. Over the next couple weeks you could try adding 5 minutes to your runs and soon you’d be running closer to an hour on long days and still running 30 minutes on easy/short days. That’s just considering duration. The options are endless when you start changing the intensity during and between runs. Try to do some faster running, even if you have to do walk-run intervals. It has the added benefit of passing the time quicker during your run too! Again, you should never do the same run more than twice in a week. This will make it significantly harder to plateau.
Keep the good habit of exercising regularly but ditch the routine exercise session! Mix it up. Take a turn increasing your exercise intensity, duration, and/or volume. See what works for you!