This is actually one of the better questions I’ve received recently. Instinctively, my first thought is NO. More on this in a minute.
If, however, you are new to fitness and just starting to exercise regularly, then by all means do whatever type of exercise you like, even if it means doing the same thing every day. You will eventually reach a point when the results taper off, you lose motivation, get bored, or all of the above. That is when you’ll want to mix it up.
Even if you are a fitness guru, there will come a time when your “normal” workout routine isn’t working, or you suffer from burnout (this is common). To keep your muscles challenged and continue to see results, you need include the following components in your routine:
2. Cardiovascular exercise
3. Muscle strengthening exercise
4. Progression (which is just a fancy word for, “gradually making it harder” so that muscles and/or cardiovascular fitness continue to improve)
Variety is the spice of life, and also the key to a successful workout routine. By continually surprising your muscles with new challenges, they will in turn adapt and become stronger, more efficient.
To mix up your routine, youÂ might try martial arts, swimming, weight training, yoga or Pilates, Zumba, BodyPump…you get the picture. This is also called “cross training.”
Cardiovascular exercise is the calorie-burning equivalent of driving your car on the highway. Aim for 30-60 mins on most days of the week.
Strength training is beneficial in many ways. It builds lean muscle, which increases resting metabolic rate. It also helps prevent injury by strengthening the muscles around the joints.
Progression will get you from A to B. You can progress both your cardiovascular and strength training routines, and there are many ways to do it. Read more about how to progress your routine.
Stretching We sit all day, move forwardÂ most of the time, and, as the title of this post would indicate, tend to do the same workouts over and over. As a result, muscles get T-I-G-H-T. Stretching at least a few times a week for 15-20 minutes (2-3 minutes for each major muscle if you do 8 stretches and hold each one 15-30 seconds, and repeat), will go a long way toward improving elasticity, and help prevent injury. I’m a fan of yoga, as well as Pilates, but really, any stretching is good in my book.
Stress.Â We all have it, none of us wants it, and most of us have trouble managing it. For some, stress is but a bump in the road. For others, it is constant, and crippling. What stresses you out? Juggling your kidâ€™s schedules, driving in heavy traffic, a poor health diagnosis, perhaps, or maybe you are facing a job loss? No matter the reason, stress can have profound and lasting effects on your health, and managing stress costs billions.
It is estimated that Americans currently spend about $14 billion per year on products and services that help them reduce their stress levels. Stress-related health expenses, absenteeism, employee turnover, and so on, cost U.S. businesses roughly $300 billion per year. (American Institute of Stress). If you, like many Americans, have recentlyÂ lost your job, then stress may cost you more money, and it can cost you your health.
The good news? The solution could be in your sneakers. Recent studies show that regular exercise not only improves physical health, it can bring out the mental sunshine. Even better, make some of your exercise time â€śoutdoorâ€ť exercise time. Research conducted at the University of Essex showed that outside exercise has benefits that extend beyond the expected calorie-burning effect. It turns out that surrounding yourself with nature stimulates spiritual feelings and your senses, and gives you an escape from modern life. This shouldnâ€™t be a surprise, but exercising outdoors also lowers stress levels, improves concentration and positively impacts health and well-being.
Exercise on the cheap.Maybe a gym membership isnâ€™t in the budget right now, but that doesnâ€™t mean you canâ€™t turn down time into exercise time. Play with your kids. Youâ€™ll earn your smoothie after an afternoon game of tag, kickball, flag football or catch with your kids. As an added bonus, children who have active parents typically grow up to be active adults, so youâ€™ll be setting a good example.
Use your surroundings to boost calorie burn. If you live in a metropolitan area that has little green space, fear not â€“ there are still plenty of opportunities here for exercising outdoors. Take your elastic tubing and tie it around you waste, then head to the nearest set of stairs (think Rocky in Balboa here). Go for a jog, run up the stairs, use the railing as an anchor for your tubing, then knock out a set of squats. If there is a hill nearby, try walking lunges up the hill. No railing in sight? Use a tree, or even a parking meter. Be creative â€“ that is half the fun!
Build your network of support. Enlist the help of friends, neighbors, grandparents, and your spouse and tell them what your plans are for getting fit and reducing stress, and ask them to help support you along the way. Your support system will help propel you forward rather than hold you back. (Read: Reaching your fitness goals: Build your network of support)
Make it a family affair.Â Include the entire family in your fitness adventures. Bike rides, walks in the park, a game of kickball, catch, or Frisbeeâ€¦really any activity that includes fun, fresh air, and exercise will do everyone some good.
Get fit with friends. Exercising with a group of people who have similar interests and goals can provide both the structure and incentive you need to stay committed. As an added bonus, studies also show that people with strong social networks have less stress and a more positive outlook on life.
Learn something new. Tennis, basketball, swimming, cycling, kayaking, horse back riding and rock climbing are just a few activities you can to try. Attempting something out of your comfort zone is a great way to boost self-confidence.Â Youâ€™ll surely meet new people, and you never know â€“ you might discover an inner athlete in you that you didnâ€™t know existed, or make a connection that leads to a new job prospect.
Think big. Have you ever dreamed of running a marathon, or completing a triathlon? While having time on your hands may not be what you want right now, maybe you can use the time to achieve a life-long goal, and who knows, you may learn something profound about yourself in the process.
You are what you eat, and when you eat poorly, your body knows. Oh boy, does it know, and if you exercise regularly, you may notice that your workouts arenâ€™t up to par. Your energy levels, brain function, digestive system, and even your exercise performance react to the foods you eat. Assuming you want to get the most out of your workouts, optimal nutrition is key.
Food is the preferred source of vitamins and minerals, yet meeting your bodyâ€™s daily nutritional needs can be challenging unless you eliminate the foods that provide no to little nutritional value. Calories are wasted on foods that contain sugar, or are too easily processed by the body, such as white breads, cakes, white rice, potatoes, soda pop, candy and other simple carbohydrates. If you eliminate a cookie, you have room for both a fruit and a vegetable. However, because life often dictates what we have time to prepare, or shop for, supplementation might be necessary to â€śfill in the gaps.â€ť Not sure what to buy? Use my Healthy Shopping List the next time you go to the store.
In order to get the adequate number of nutrients, your diet should be well-rounded, include adequate calories to meet your daily energy needs, and include all of the food groups. This isnâ€™t always easy, especially for busy moms who shuttle between home, work, their childrenâ€™s activities, and their own activities. This scenario requires special attention. If you find yourself â€śgrabbing and goingâ€ť without much thought as to what foods youâ€™re grabbing, try to pre-prepare healthy snacks that are at the ready when you are on the run. (Also, check out: Healthy Meals in Minutes)
Walkers, runners, cyclists, Zumba enthusiastsâ€¦no matter what your mode of exercise is, in order for the body to perform at its best, it needs quality nutrition. All of the B vitamins vitamin D, C and E, beta carotene, selenium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, iron, and zinc should be included in your diet daily.
In addition, if you are training for a distance event, such as a half- or full-marathon? Paying extra attention to your nutritional needs will help propel you through the many weeks of intense training required to complete these events. Vitamins that specifically enhance exercise performance include vitamin D, B vitamins, and calcium.
â€˘ Quality protein is key to supporting the growth and repair of muscle tissue. Keep in mind, the typical American diet already contains nearly twice the daily requirement for protein, and consuming more than that provides no boost to your performance, may add stress to the kidneys. and may even result in calcium loss. http://www.indoorclimbing.com/Protein_Requirement.html
â€˘ Quality fats, such as mono- and poly-unsaturated fats found in olive oil, canola oil, flaxseed oil, seeds, nuts, avocado, and fatty fish, for example, are important for the proper absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as providing energy for long-endurance events. Healthy fats also maintain cell membranes.
â€˘ Vitamin D helps fast-twitch muscle fibers multiply and grow, as well as assists in the support of bone health, immunity, muscle function, and inflammation. If you happen to live in a part of the country where the sun shines less for large chunks of time during parts of the year (as in Ohio, where I live), you may need to supplement.
â€˘ The B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, biotin, folate, B6, niacin, and B12) help the body convert food to energy, repair muscle tissue, and help make new red blood cells.
â€˘ Vitamin D and calcium work together to develop and maintain bone tissue.
â€˘ Female athletes in particular may not consume enough calories on a daily basis to cover their need for calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. These minerals are found in animal products, therefore vegans and vegetarians are particularly at risk of being deficient in these minerals.
â€˘ Finally, proper fluid balance will maintain hydration before, during, and after exercise. Because sweat lost through physical activity can easily exceed 2-3 liters per hour, it is important to replenish fluids as soon as possible after exercising. Youâ€™ll know you are re-hydrated when your urine is pale yellow to clear.
â€˘ For more in depth nutritional counseling, it is always a good idea to visit a registered dietitian to discuss you current eating and exercise habits, as well as your training goals.
â€˘ Macronutrients are important too. Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, provide the energy needed to sustain endurance-type activities (think running, cycling, swimming, and so on.)
Meeting your bodyâ€™s nutritional needs, especially during times of intense physical training, can be difficult. Meeting with a registered dietician is a good idea if you know you arenâ€™t acquiring specific nutrients, have dietary restrictions, or special health requirements. You can find a dietician near you by visiting, Eat Right
If you suffer from diabetes, you well know that exercise can and should be a part of the comprehensive treatment of both type I and type II diabetes. However, the potential for complications associated with diabetes often means that exercise is neglected, leading to inactivity. Inactivity, in turn, can further affect the complications of diabetes.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, relatively healthy persons with diabetes can engage in walking, jogging, cycling, cross-country skiing, and similar forms of aerobic activity for 20-60 minutes on 3-5 days per week, with exercise intensity ranging between 60-90% of max heart rate.Â Recent research also indicates that regular resistance training may be beneficial for patients with diabetes. Therefore, including both cardiovascular and strength training exercise into a weekly fitness regimen may be beneficial for diabetes sufferers.
It is important to note that the possible glucose-altering effects of exercise make close monitoring of blood sugar before, during, and after exercise very important.Â Because exercise makes the body more sensitive to the way the body responds to insulin, use of an insulin pump for individuals with type I diabetes is recommended in order to closely monitor blood sugar levels.
Before you begin an exercise program, it is important to get the okay from your physician and/or diabetes specialist.Â Then, follow these tips to ensure that your exercise sessions are safe and effective.
[Sources: ACSMâ€™s Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, 4th ed, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2001.
Exercise Physiology, 5th ed, McArdle, Katch, and Katch, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2001
IDEA Fitness Journal, Peggy Kraus, MA,Â â€śWorking with Diabetic Clients,â€ť Nov-Dec 2007]
It happens to be American Heart Month, in case you haven’t seen the “Go Red for Women” slogans everywhere. Heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined – I was shocked the first time I learned that, but not surprised either. Heart disease is prevalent in my own family – a fact which I passed along to a nurse during my annual you-know-what appointment last week. Know what she said? “Wow. Heart disease on both sides of your family. Well, your screwed.” I kid you not – her exact words. She didn’t ask about my health habits, exercise, nutrition…nada. Just, “your screwed.” What?!?!?! I’m not, and I’ll tell you why. Twenty-plus years ago I decided I could make a difference. I started exercising regularly, eating right, and learning as much as I could about keeping my heart healthy. We do NOT have to die from the same things our family members died from, and don’t let anyone, health care professional or not, tell you otherwise! Do something. Do it today. Go for a walk, reduce your stress level, make a colorful salad, find out what the healthiest foods are, join a gym – just do something, anything but listen to a load of crap like that. Now go on cowgirl, get a move on, and don’t die from heart disease, ‘kay?