What happens when you've reached your fitness and weight loss goals? First and foremost, a "congratulations" is in order! It's tempting to kick up your feet and dig into that bag of potato chips after all that hard work. Unfortunately, you have to keep moving. Your tried and true routine won't maintain your new look forever. You know how the first time you did a few sets of lunges your muscles were aching for three days after? That's because your muscles weren't used to that motion. After weeks of working lunges into your routine it seemed easier, right? That's because it was. Your body wasn't working as hard as it used to, which translates into less energy used, and eventually body and fitness maintenance becomes a chore. The good news is, through interval or cross training you can shock your body into working hard again and continue getting the results you crave.
The great part about this particular kind of workout is the ability to increase intensity, add time, reps, distance, exercises, or intervals in order to create a more difficult workout. What's important is that you work until you're panting then recover as quickly as possible before doing it again. Sprint work is a great way to begin interval training. Sprint the length of a football field, walk back and do it again. Change it up after a couple of weeks by adding 10 burpees before and 20 sit-ups after each sprint. A different approach to intervals is using a ladder or pyramid structure. This means your peak energy output is mid workout. Again, the football field is a great place to start. Sprint 10 yards then walk back. Sprint 20 yards then walk back. The same concept can be applied to bike, elliptical, or swimming workouts. Get creative and add different exercises to keep it interesting!
If you have spent the past few months running five miles three times a week, that's great! But it's probably not as challenging as it once was which means you've increased your level of fitness. In order to keep pushing your body, that same routine has to evolve a bit. Cross training can give you an added challenge and can actually help improve your running speed and endurance. Swimming is an excellent way to start. If you aren't already a swimmer, you'll be surprised at how much of a workout you can get in the water! Use whatever stroke you're comfortable with for starters. Water adds resistance that air doesn't, challenging your body in a different way and building lean muscle. An easy swim can burn around 500 calories an hour! Challenge yourself in the pool and you'll feel a noticeable difference the next time you lace up your running shoes. If you're used to the elliptical, try out spinning. If you're a yogi, work a few weight training sessions into your routine.
The overall idea with cross training and interval training is to mix it up. Confuse your body. Make it do things it isn't used to doing. That muscle confusion is what is going to build fitness levels and shock your body into working to your benefit. The same old routine will not only bore you, it'll bore your body. Once you're in shape, constant variation should be your new fitness focus.
Rachel Betsch has emerged herself in functional fitness and effective training methods as a lifeguard, a sergeant in the US Army, and a hiking and biking guide at Canyon Ranch. Currently, as an outdoor sports enthusiast and while in training to become a wildland firefighter, fitness remains ever relevant. Rachel is in constant search of new and exciting fitness trends and loves assisting others in pursuit of their own health and fitness goals. She can be reached at RachelBetsch@live.com.