“Progress is impossible without change.” Most of us resist change. We like routine. We like knowing what’s to come. But without change, without variety, there is little or no growth. The same is true when it comes to exercise.
Pursuing change is much easier to talk about than actually do. Our brains and bodies are designed to fight against change, which is exactly what variety in your workout routine is: change. To give you an example, one study showed “that non-varied programs can result in training plateaus, whereas periodized programs result in more consistent fitness gains” (Fleck & Kraemer, 2004). One major reason for burnouts/plateaus with working out is boredom. If the body gets bored with your workouts the benefits won’t be as high, the calories might be a little lower, you might quit sooner when it gets tough, and the satisfaction might not be there. We are seeing this more and more with young children and sports. A study published by The American Journal of Sports Medicine showed, “increased emphasis on sports specialization has led to an increase in overuse injuries, overtraining, and burnout.” It’s no different with adults. You may not be a youth athlete that focuses on one sport year round, but this fact is relatable in that you might be going down a similar path by doing the same workout, using the same weights, same sets, same reps, or going to the same class. When there are no new challenges presented to the body and mind, not only does the body adapt and the exercise is no longer a challenge, but boredom soon follows and oftentimes a lack of motivation to continue to exercise. Take a look at the graph below to see evidence of this effect.
The Principle of Accommodation
This graph shows that as a certain training load is repeated over time, the performance gain decreases (Zatsiorsky, 2006). Most of you have probably experienced the Principle of Accommodation, which this graph displays. The Principle of Accommodation states that the response of a biological object to a constant stimulus decreases over time. It is when you make initial great gains on a program only to plateau after a few weeks. When working on a single workout you may experience these 3 traditional phases: Alarm Phase, Resistance Phase and Exhaustion Phase. During the Alarm phase a new workout is introduced and you may experience soreness for one to two days afterwards. The Resistance Phase is when you begin to increase reps, load, or time to the workout and performance gains are made. The last phase, Exhaustion, is when you have smaller performance increases or even a decrease in performance and there is risk for injury or aches and pains occur. This is the time when a program should be changed; it is the moment when you stop adaptation to the program.
Where variation comes in during your workouts is finding ways to create change at appropriate intervals and amounts. We all have certain pieces of equipment we enjoy and others that might cause us to sigh. Issues arise when you only use one type of equipment or always do the same routine day in and day out. If you go to group classes, yet only go to one style of class, again, there is little variety. At Intelligent Fitness we offer three types of classes: Foundations, Industrial Strength, and Afterburn, which all affect the body in different ways. One of the reasons we have three classes is to add variety to your training routine. And if you’ve never been to a class before, adding one to your weekly workout routine can give you the added benefit of variety in training. You may want to resist the new workout that your trainer presents to you, but remember that it is to your benefit. Maybe you’re afraid to try something new because you won’t be great at it to start. But that’s okay! Don’t forget that performance gains are made when a new stimulus is added to your workout; whether that’s the amount of weight you lift, the number of reps, the type of exercise or how long a workout is.
Remember that quote you read earlier? “Progress is impossible without change.” Now you know that it is as true with exercise as it is with life. So step out of your bubble, try something new, do something different and you might surprisingly enjoy the change. You will never know if you never try.