How to add change & challenge to your workout

Your Personal Trainer:
By Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN, ACSM

The long-term goal of exercise is to make it an integral part of your life. The challenge after getting started is to keep going and to stay motivated. Regular exercise should become a routine, but not routine! Varying your workout not only leads to physiological improvement, it can also help to stave off boredom.

Last week, I introduced the F.I.T.T. Principle (frequency, intensity, type and time) as it applied to beginning an exercise program. Whether you are just into the second or third week of your New Year’s resolutions or are a veteran exerciser, this principle applies to you. As a new exerciser, instead of looking at the whole year ahead, think one month at a time and renew your resolve each month by adding or changing an exercise. As a veteran exerciser, renew or invigorate your routine if it’s been the same for awhile. Here are some reasons why and some tips on how to make some changes.

Why is it good to vary your fitness program? First of all, you have many muscles that need to be exercised and you can’t do them all if you exercise the same way every time. Changing your exercises helps to reduce the risk of injury and to prevent overuse of any one muscle or muscle group. Cardiovascular exercise increases your endurance. By increasing the intensity of those exercises, you increase your endurance and fitness levels. Likewise, weight training increases your strength. By increasing the intensity of your resistance training, you will strengthen the specific muscles you are working. The flexibility or stretching component of exercise increases your range of motion and your ability to stretch your muscles. Increasing the intensity or duration of your stretches leads to increased flexibility. That’s why if you have been doing the same routine for a long time without change, you may feel like you are in a rut or that your workout is monotonous and boring. Be forewarned. Varying your workout may increase your risk of enjoyment!

So what are some tips on how to add change and challenge to your workout? A good framework is to use the F.I.T.T. Principle. Mix up the frequency, the intensity, the type of exercise and the amount of time you do it. For instance:

1. Try a different type of cardiovascular or aerobic exercise. If you are a jogger, try an
indoor or outdoor bicycle, a cross-country ski machine or swim some laps. Train for a

2. If you exercise three days a week, add a day or two to your aerobic workout and try
a new exercise on those days. Take a class in Irish dancing!

3. Add ten to fifteen minutes to your aerobic workout each session. Add an extra mile.

4. Learn a new stretch or two for your major muscle groups, your legs, arms or back or a
variation of a stretch you’ve been doing. Take a ballet class!

5. If you do your cardiovascular workout five days a week, alternate days between a
harder and easier workout.

6. Allow yourself a rest day or two each week.

7. Increase your resistance or weight training from two to three days a week but leave a day in between your weight workouts if you’re doing the same muscle groups. Learn some new resistance exercises and try not to let more that three months go by without increasing your specific weight training exercises. Read a book on weight training or sign up for a class.

Let me end by giving you a resistance training exercise. It’s the one I am doing in my picture. It’s called a shoulder press using free weights. To add a challenge, sit on a stability ball while you do it. If you’ve never used a stability ball, try one out. Take a class or rent a video. They are great for core stability training, good for your back and are a lot of fun.

Equipment: Hand weights. Stability ball (if using)
Muscle Group: Shoulders/Back/Core

You can do this exercise standing-up, or sitting on a chair or stability ball. If you are seated, keep your hips and knees at 90 degrees. Sit with neutral posture, bringing your abdomen in towards your spine. Bring your weights to shoulder level, palms facing forward. Without locking your elbows, fully extend your arms toward the ceiling and slowly return them to your shoulders. Do not tense your neck or arch your back. Do 1 – 3 sets of 8 – 12 repetitions.

Get fit. Stay fit. There are many roads that lead to fitness. Try a variety and enjoy yourself along the way.

Yours in fitness,

Olivia C. Rossi, RN, MSN
Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, ACSM
Certified Personal Trainer, ACSM

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