Whether you are one of the many working to stick to a New Year’s resolution or you are simply open to and interested in trying new ways of working your body with exercise, there are tremendous benefits to ensuring that variety is one of the ingredients in your fitness recipe for success. Not only can boredom with the same routine derail a long term exercise goal but continuing to perform the same or even similar exercises over time creates plateaus in the progress of strength and endurance gains.
Simply put, exercise is a demand we place on our bodies and the strength and endurance we gain are the adaptations our body makes to cope with the demands. The “SAIDs Principal” stands for Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands and accounts for this process by which the body will get better, stronger and faster at doing what it is asked to do in repetition. More specifically, if the body is asked to perform very slow repetitions of isolated dumbbell arm curls, the body is going to get very strong at performing slow arm curls. Conversely, if asked to explode from a starting block and sprint at top speed for training, the body will get better at top speed sprinting.
An additional academic theory worth mention is that of “Specificity,” which implies that only the specific activity itself will produce desired results for greater performance of that activity. An example would be: only skiing itself can truly prepare the body for skiing. While that may be true to the letter of the laws of the body, there is also the beneficial practice of “cross training” made popular in the ‘80s during the reign of athletes like Bo Jackson and Deon Sanders who were top notch in more than one professional sport. Unlike sports heroes, most of us are mere mortals looking for the best, most efficient and fun ways to keep exercise interesting and therefore motivating so we can simply enjoy normal daily life or recreational pursuits without discomfort. In the preparation sense, cross training is doing similar exercises to a given sport, such as swimming to train for surfing, but it can simply be a great way to eliminate boredom by including a variety of different activities in every workout. Try using three different cardio machines for 15-mins each vs. one for 45-mins; try different types of strength equipment at different times in a bout of lifting; or take different group fitness classes with different points of focus and guided instruction so your routine is virtually always changing. This simple practice of asking to body to perform different activities in different ways every workout will prevent plateaus, increase short term gains in strength and endurance, and will keep the mind and body guessing while the fun of variety fuels your success.
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