A Small Dose of Tough Love

Sharon Rekieta, Fitness Director - 21st September 2012

First, let me preface this week's submission with a message to those who just started working out: congratulations; good for you; keep it going and please know that what I am about to write does not apply to you. Anyone who is in the beginning stages of exercising will receive benefits and positive results from the newness of expending effort.

On the other hand, to those who have been working out for at least six months and are hoping to keep losing weight and/or improving their level of fitness, you're going to have to kick it up a notch.

I hear variations of this question from walkers, runners, fitness enthusiasts and gym rats on almost a daily basis: why am I not burning fat, losing weight, getting faster, or increasing my strength anymore even though I am regularly performing my typical workout routine?

The key phrase in their question is "performing my typical routine."

If you're still walking at a leisurely pace on the treadmill, pushing the same weights, or running the same five-mile route, your body has become accustomed to your workout and will remain in maintenance mode until you shake it up.

Before I go any further, I want to make it perfectly clear that maintenance mode is fantastic and most physicians, personal trainers and group exercise instructors would jump up and down with delight knowing that their patient, client or class participant is adhering to a regular fitness routine as there are numerous benefits received from adherence and consistency.

The problem occurs when someone is no longer satisfied with the status quo and instead prefers to improve. Do you want to hear the good news? Pushing through the status quo towards improvement is fairly easy. The key is to increase the intensity so you are pushing yourself a bit and/or vary your workout so you are not doing the same old thing.

For example, during cardio workouts, walk or run at your normal pace for five minutes and then push the pace for a minute or two. Continue this interval format for your normal duration and you'll turn on the fat burning fire.

There are also ways to change up your resistance workout. If you typically focus on less reps and higher weights, switch it around and go for more reps at a lower weight. Or, perform a circuit of all the major muscle groups and then hit one of the cardio machines for five minutes at a somewhat "breathless" pace. Then go back and complete another circuit of weights. You'll keep your body wondering what is coming next causing it to work a little harder to keep up with you.

The key word to remember is: change! Our bodies are wonderful at adapting to challenges that we present and that can be great—especially in the initial stages of adopting a fitness routine. However, adaptation can also work against us if our bodies become so accustomed to the workout that it begins to "phone it in."

Bottom line: if you're happy with the status quo—stick with what works for you and carry on.  If you're seeking improvement, switch it up, change it up and look for ways to surprise your body. You'll be pleasantly surprised with renewed results.