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Spice Up Your Workouts with a Little Variety

Somehow, your workouts have lost their zest appeal. You go to the gym or go out for a jog, but your heart just isn't in it. Maybe what you need is a challenge.

To get results, you have to keep challenging your body.

You build strength and aerobic capacity by responding to physical stressors--by lifting a certain amount of weight, for example, or by walking at a certain pace up a hill. But after three weeks, your body adapts to these stressors.

At that point, your performance stops improving. That's also the point when you're likely to become bored. You don't see any more progress, so soon you just quit.

Make a plan

To keep yourself challenged mentally and physically, make a training plan that states your objectives clearly and propels you through a well-organized series of long-, medium- and short-range goals. If you are a newcomer to exercise, make sure to check with your health care provider before beginning any program.

Start by deciding on an overall objective. Among people who join health clubs, the most common objective is to reduce body size or achieve a healthy weight. But there are other choices, including increasing strength, improving in a sport and reducing stress.

Variety adds vitality

Refresh your workout after each three-week cycle by changing any or all of these:

  • Frequency of your workout. If you've been doing an activity three times a week, do it twice a week--but increase the time or intensity.

  • Intensity of the exercise. To keep improving, you need to keep raising the intensity level. So if you've been working at 60 percent of your maximum weight of resistance, for example, push it up to 65 percent of capacity during the next cycle. As weights go up, do more sets with fewer reps. During the following cycle, you can concentrate on toning by lowering the intensity and doing more reps.

  • Duration of the workout. Vary the time you spend on the workout as a whole or on individual activities. If you do a fast one-mile walk, do a slower two miles, but with more hills.

  • Type of exercise. Keep training the same muscles, but vary the kinds of activities you do. This keeps your interest up and prevents overtraining. You can use different activities altogether or just change the angle or motion. For example, if you've been doing lunges, switch to squats instead.