Is Variety Part of Your Game?

How often have you been told to spice up your workout?  And do you?  Often we fall into a routine or a rut that keeps us repeating the same motions, using the same muscle groups, and hence overworking certain muscle groups leading to a decline in our performance and possible injury.

Variety (some call it cross training) in many ways in your life, can be the “spice” of your life!  How to we go about finding the variety?  How will we know if it’s working or if we even like the variety?  Like almost anything and everything in life, you just have to do it.

Let’s start off by breaking up your routine into a few simple categories: Endurance, Strength, and Flexibility. These three key ingredients make up any sport.  The more  we have these three key ingredients in balance, the fitter, stronger, and more flexible we become.  Our performance has an opportunity to improve dramatically.

Endurance is often linked to sports like cycling, swimming, and running.  What other sports could we substitute for these three? I know for myself, I exchange running for skate- skiing.  I know it maybe hard to believe but I just stop and don’t run at all for at least three months.  Why?  To give those muscles a rest.  By switching to skate skiing, I end up using similar muscles but in a very different way.  This helps the muscle actually become stronger in places it may be weaker due to the repetition.     I have to say that since three years ago when I started this shift, I have run my two fastest summers in all my life. Not bad for starters. 

For Cycling, obviously there is spinning, but what about down hill skiing, snowshoeing or even hiking? What about Ice-skating? Hockey? They use similar muscle groups but in different ways which helps aid in recovery while firing different parts of the muscles.

Swimming is definitely hard to replace or exchange especially since the breathing is so critical under water. However, you can mix it up beyond just swimming laps.  So playing some sports like basketball, or volleyball or a game of catch.  Add in some drills in like holding your breath under water for the length of the pool.

Become creative with different ways to implement change.  You can combine Strength with Endurance and try  Cross Fit Training; The Stair Master, Jacobs Ladder, Pre-Cor EFX, kick boxing, karate, jumping roping, rowing using the TRX, Weight Lifting, Zumba classes, and I am sure there are many more. So if you have always gone to the gym and lifted weights, try a TRX class, Egosque, Pilates or Zumba.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

In addition, Isolated Strength Training is really important for helping any muscle groups that are weak.  Often after an injury or surgery, multiple muscle groups can become atrophied, lax, and or weak.  It is critical, as soon as possible into your recovery, to begin to isolate and strengthen these muscle groups with strength training to getting them to start firing again.  If you are not sure if you have any weak muscles, first ask yourself the question: Do I have extreme tightness say in my IT band?  In my hamstring?  In my shoulder? In my Lower back?  If so, most likely another muscle/muscle group is very weak.  The next step I recommend is to see a physical therapist.  Go over what activities you do, where your tightness is, when it occurs, and ask what could possibly be weak that is creating the tightness in other muscle groups.  Then begin a program they will create for you of 5-10 daily strengthening exercises for you to do.  It is essential to add these in to your daily routine for a minimum of 3 months.

Flexibility.  There are several ways to become flexible.  In addition to basic stretching, there is what I call Active Stretching where you continue to move while stretching, The “Feldenkrais Method “(which is what I teach), all forms of Yoga, Pilates and, even Melt.  Again, I can’t stress enough the importance in having a variety of stretching in your repertoire. The more you mix it up, the more you will reap the benefits. A minimum of 2-3 days a week with any of the forms mentioned is recommended.  It is critical to stretch gently after any form of endurance training/workout.  Allow yourself at least 10 minutes to cool down and stretch.  I recommend to either follow what an instructor has designed for their class, or to try my active stretching, or to create your own. Just do it!  Enjoy discovering some  FUN, EXCITING, and  NEW ways to workout, train hard, and add variety “The Spice of Life” back into your life!