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Eve Lees

Health Columnist for INSPIRED 55+ Lifestyle Magazine and the White Rock Sun

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March 12, 2024

Shock your body to improve your fitness

Making your workout harder is just one way to advance in your fitness program. But how hard you push yourself isn’t the only consideration and not really a necessary one if you aren’t training to compete. Simply changing your program around will shock your body enough to continue stimulating the changes needed to raise your fitness level.

Muscles adapt to patterns of stress. So, it’s a good idea to mix things up to continue seeing results. Every three or four months is a good rule of thumb to make a small change in your regular routine. Here are a few suggestions to alter your current exercise program without necessarily upping the intensity of effort.

If you ride a stationary exercise bike, occasionally stand up while pedalling (increase the tension while you do this), pedal backwards, or sit on the floor (or a chair) behind the bike while you pedal (you might have to secure the bike somehow, so you won’t slide it forward as you pedal). This position is like riding a reclining cycle and puts more stress on your hamstrings. NOTE: Adjusting your leg reach when sitting on the floor behind your bike is the same as leg reach when sitting upright on the bike seat: Your fully straightened leg should be slightly bent at the knee.

Change the order of your weight training exercises or replace your usual exercises with entirely new ones for each muscle group. If you usually do three or four sets of each exercise, do just one set for each exercise, then repeat the series again three or four times.

If you like to run, consider water running in waist-deep water or experiment with Nordic Walking (fitness walking with poles) to involve an upper body workout at the same time.

Walkers can occasionally break into a short sprint. For example, walk briskly for one minute, then sprint or skip for 30 seconds. Repeat as often as you like. Or you can try shuffling sideways or backwards for short intervals (watch out for garbage cans and other obstacles!).

Take a week or two away from your usual exercise activity every three or four months. Try something completely different, like Pilates, yoga, martial arts or even a leisure activity like golf. Two weeks isn’t long enough to backslide (lose your fitness level) in your usual fitness routine. But it offers enough of a break so that when you return to the activity, you’ll continue to advance and see improvement. This is a great way to avoid plateaus.

If your cardio routine involves doing only one activity, consider breaking it up by doing several different activities. For example, if you usually run on the treadmill for 30 minutes, try doing ten minutes of three other activities, such as stationary cycling, stepping, and rope jumping. Or include walking briskly up and down your staircase if you live in a two-story home. You’ll still get the heart/lung and fat-burning benefits of a longer, single activity. In addition, you’ll work different muscles and alleviate boredom. Your workout may even seem shorter when you spend less time on each activity.


Eve Lees has been active in the health & fitness industry since 1979. Currently, she is a Freelance Health Writer for several publications and speaks to business and private groups on various health topics



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