A couple of years back when I was just beginning to get deep into my fitness journey, I hit a point when my motivation and interest began to wane. It didn’t take me long to realize that there were two main reasons first this.
First, I was performing the exact same routine every day, which was boring, not to mention ineffective. Second, I had hit a plateau and was no longer seeing any progress, and nothing kills your inspiration like a lack of progress.
So through a bit of research and trial and error, I found some techniques that helped me push through and renew my results. I later worked what I learned into a post on how to get more out of a workout routine.
Flash forward to now, and I’ve come a long way – far beyond anything I ever thought possible, by every metric. At this point I no longer have issues with waning motivation, but I am still constantly interested in finding new ways to make my routine more effective.
Here are a few things I’d like to add to the earlier points. While I’ve used these techniques at a much more proficient juncture in my practice, they’re still all applicable to anyone no matter what their level of fitness happens to be.
HIIT or High Intensity Interval Training is dismissed by many as just another workout fad, but in my experience (not to mention based upon extensive research) it is not only effective, but makes a workout significantly more efficient by cramming a lot more into a shorter span of time.
As the name suggests, HIIT comprises of working out in short, intense intervals. The “circuit” element involves moving rapidly from one exercise to the next.
This can mean a lot of things: sprints broken up by bodyweight workouts, bursts of running punctuated with a few minutes of walking, or whatever. The point is to go back and forth between high intensity exercises and those that are lower impact, which pushes your body into the anaerobic zone, or – in other words – it kicks your ass.
There are a number of benefits to HIIT:
- You burn more fat while maintaining muscle.
- You get a healthier heart and better stamina.
- It requires no equipment.
- It increases your metabolism.
- It packs far more calorie burn into significantly less time.
- It certainly isn’t boring.
The bottom line is that it’s a highly effective method of kicking your body into overdrive, resulting in toned muscle and reduced fat. And it’s time-efficient, meaning you can do a 20-60 minute HIIT workout and get the same effect you would from a much longer one.
There are an endless variety of HIIT routines out there, but here’s an example of one I regularly. It involves jumping rope (my favorite form of cardio), and it works like this – I’ll jump rope at an intense pace for 50 seconds at a time, punctuated by one set of each of the following with ten to twenty seconds of recovery interspersed throughout:
- 30 pushups x5
- 15 bench rows x6
- 20 bicep curls x6
- 12 dumbbell flys x4
- 15 dumbbell side bends x4
- 12 dumbbell wood chops x4
- 20 weighted Russian twists x5
- 20 weighted sit-ups x5
- 20 goblet squats x5
This is actually a fairly long routine for HIIT. Generally one would go through a list half this long, or would focus on different parts of the body on different days. But this is how I like it.
Trust me – go through a good HIIT routine and your body will feel it. Do it for a month and you’ll see the results.
Full Range of Motion
One of the most common mistakes people make when working out involves cutting corners by limiting their range of motion.
Consider a bicep curl as an example. A proper curl involves extending the arm fully, and retracting it as tightly as possible. Many if not most people, however, use what are called “partial reps” in which the motion is performed only halfway.
Partial reps happen for two reasons: because some professionals advise them as ways of getting in “more” reps, and because many people take shortcuts to make the motion easier.
But an exercise is supposed to be difficult. When you perform half a motion, you’re leaving a slew of tiny muscle fibers unused. Pushing through the hardest part of the motion is where you see the most progress.
If you’re worried about how difficult it is to make the full move, try using less weight. Studies have proven that using less weight to complete full motions produces better results than using more weight in partial reps.
In fact, studies have shown that pros who advocate partial reps are flat out wrong. Why?
- Full reps provide more muscle gain at a faster rate.
- More range of motion makes a person more capable at managing heavy lifts.
The bottom line is that if you’re not using the full range of motion, you’re throwing out a lot of potential.
I rejected yoga as hippie-dippy stretch-time for years, perhaps because I attended a hippie-dippy school where I was inundated with hippie-dippy things.
When I decided to give it a shot, however, I discovered that not only did it provide me with a great way to center myself and find focus, but it reduced lingering soreness and increased my flexibility – dramatically so, in fact.
And what does that increased flexibility result in? Greater range of motion, and we’ve already covered the benefits of that.
So the hippies won and now yoga is a regular part of my routine. But nothing they can say will ever get me to enjoy the band Phish.
You can learn more about yoga by checking out my interview with Bad Yogi instructor Erin Motz.
When I first began getting into fitness, I was primarily interested in getting fit for the sake of being fit. The idea of actually using all of the increased strength and stamina for anything in particular didn’t really cross my mind.
But the real test of whether or not one’s fitness efforts are working comes when the rubber hits the road. In other words, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor (while progressing even further) through the practical application of your gains.
Hiking, swimming, cycling, playing a sport, climbing, or whatever it is that gets you moving and using your body – all of these are great ways to put your fitness to the test.
Experiencing the increasing capability of your body is not only inspiring, but the activity itself provides even more progress. The action provides exercise while working out a lot of the little places your normal routine might miss.
You might work out intensely several times a week, but head outdoors for a day of hiking and swimming and you’ll wake up with sore places you didn’t know existed.
The bottom line is that your adventure into fitness in ongoing, and there are countless ways to improve upon your routine each step of the way. It’s all a matter of research, experimentation, and a willingness to try new things.
Always keep in mind that there are no shortcuts. The best part of an adventure emerges when you take the longer, harder route.
This adventure is no different.