I think many of us are guilty of getting into an exercise routine and then sticking to the same thing week in week out. Do you do the same class and walks each week? When was the last time you tried something new or did a longer walk than normal? I challenge you to try and remember!
It's easy to assume your 3 workouts a week are enough, but changing your routine is essential if you want to keep reaping the maximum benefits. Regular progression or more variety is the key to long-term results with exercise, so let's discuss why and how often you should be switching things up.
Our body is incredible, and its sole goal is survival in the most efficient way. The human body is constantly adapting to the environment it's in and the stimuli we expose it to. This leads to activities we do regularly becoming easier over time and requiring less effort. Sounds great, you might think! But what it ultimately means is that it requires less energy to do the same tasks than it did a month ago. Also, because our body is now well prepared for specific tasks, no further adaptations are needed to allow us to perform them most efficiently. In short – we stop getting fitter.
Progressing what we do when it no longer feels as challenging ensures more stress is placed on the body, resulting in further adaptations. This is how we get fitter, burn more calories, and change our body shape by building muscle for example.
Exactly when you change your routine depends on what activity you're doing, what your goal is and you as an individual – as we're all different! But that said, there are things you can look out for to help you identify when you might need a shake-up.
Very loose guidance is to ensure you change your exercise routine every 4-6 weeks or so. Following this advice helps you to create a long-term plan that progresses, and acts as a reminder to regularly revisit your plan and goals. But, this is just a guide and exactly when you should progress depends on lots of factors.
One such factor is your reason for exercising in the first place and what your goals are. If you're just trying to ensure you move more for general health, you may want to change what you're doing every 4 weeks or so to prevent boredom, but being super regimented with this is less important than it would be for someone who has a specific fitness goal in mind. For example, if you're training for a marathon, you should probably be aiming to add a mile to your training every week. Similarly, if you are training to get stronger, you will need to monitor how much you can lift for 3 sets of 12 reps for example, and if you start to feel like you can keep repping – add some kgs to that barbell.
Ultimately specific fitness goals need a structured programme and regular progression. Whereas generally being active for health is a little more flexible, and it can simply be trying a new class or walking a different route to help keep you stimulated and challenged. If you have a specific goal, set a programme to help you reach it and review every 2-3 weeks to identify if anything needs tweaking. Maybe you need to add some distance to your runs or up the weights, or even add an extra workout session to your week. Just ensure you keep progressing.
It's all about doing a bit more than you were before, or testing your body in new ways – so progression can come in many forms.
Note! While change can be good, if you have a specific goal, this must be born alongside consistency. It will be hard to monitor your progress if your goal is to run a marathon and one week you're running and the next you're swimming. Likewise, lifting heavy one week then switching to light weights and more reps the next week won't be ideal on your quest for increased strength. Stick with a format and create the progression around this.
Progression is key if you want to keep seeing significant results from your exercise routine. Monitor your own improvements and take note when a routine starts becoming too easy or boring. If it does, it's time to give things a boost. This doesn't have to mean giving up more time to exercise either – working harder or doing something completely different as a new challenge also leads to ongoing improvements. Don't get stuck in a rut!
Emma White (Certified Personal Trainer) has always loved fitness. She's passionate about the many benefits of regular exercise, particularly the positive impact on mental health and overall quality of life, as well as how it provides the key to successful weight management.