What’s Wrong With A Routine? (Psst: It’s Too Routine)

After my first year of going to the gym, I was proud of my accomplishments. I had gotten my tired, old ticker used to exercising again and I had lost 20 pounds. Everything seemed to be going in a positive direction.

But there were a couple of nagging issues that I could not seem to shake. One of them was that I seemed to be getting to the gym a little later every day. That wasn’t much of a concern – I work at home, so who cares when I get to the gym, which is open all night long?

Secondly, I didn’t seem to be making much progress of late. I had lost those 20 pounds in the first four or five months of working out. But now I was going on a year of working out and I hadn’t much more to show for the past six months of effort.

Yes, I used the same old elliptical equipment for cardio each day and I did the same old weight lifting routine every other day (which I never much enjoyed, anyway, to be perfectly honest about it).

But I was staying the same weight, while my results were getting thinner and thinner.

Then someone gave me a tip that I thought simply defied all reason. If you do the same workout day after day, I was told, your body begins to adjust so that you are doing that work so much more efficiently that you actually wind up making less gains.

After all, if your goal is to burn more calories, then you should do a workout that your body is not efficient at doing. Although it sounds odd, that makes some sense.

Think of it as if your body were a car and the idea was to burn up or use up as much gasoline as possible. If the car ran efficiently, then it would have to run further to burn the gasoline.

In your body, you are trying to burn up those calories, so the more your body adapts and becomes efficient, the longer it will take to lose any weight.

But there’s another key principle at work here. Your car engine – to go back to that analogy – does not get bored by repeating the same task over and over. We, on the other hand, are not machines, so we get bored. That means that the reason I was losing less weight and the reason I was going to the gym later and later were the same reason: My routine was beginning to work against me.

Medical journals say the same things. You should vary your exercise regime because your body becomes too efficient at one task to drop the same amount of weight. Secondly, to get bored is to risk just quitting the workout altogether.

And that won’t do at all.

Here are a few ways to spice up that dull workout and to add variety to your routine:

Try something competitive

If you have to go to a gym to get back in shape, there’s a chance, given your advancing years, that you’ve forgotten why people exercise in the first place, which is often to play sports. Hey – how about that?

After working out for a few months and figuring out your tolerances, try getting back onto that basketball court or the tennis court. Perhaps join a soccer league or a weekly hockey game. That gives you great incentive to work out and it varies that dull routine greatly.

Do something recreational

OK, joining a soccer league isn’t your thing. You can still vary your routine and get a good workout by climbing a local hill, renting a canoe for an afternoon of paddling, trying out out a kayak, going dancing or just ice skating or roller skating for the fun of it. There are plenty of activities that are good exercise for you, but are not competitive or team sports.

So something profoundly silly

Yes, once a week (at least) go play a sport. But once a month promise yourself you will do something truly silly.

What falls under the category of silly? Lots. There’s just splashing about in the pool with the kids, diving into the surf at a beach, or getting a group together for a water fight or for bubble soccer.

If you have yet to give it a try or watched the mayhem that ensues when you get a group together wearing bubble soccer suits, then search the Internet and see what you are missing. If this isn’t the very zenith of silly, then I must have missed what that might be.

Try officiating

If you don’t particularly believe competitive sports suits your lifestyle, there are plenty of adults who find great satisfaction and reasonable exercise can be had by becoming a credentialed referee for high school or college soccer, basketball or lacrosse. Any sport in which the referee has to keep up with the action can be a good workout physically and mentally at the same time. And it feels rewarding to contribute to safe physical exercise.

At least once a week you should devote your exercise routine to fun. Get off that exercise bike and shoot some hoops with the kids or go for a relaxing few laps in the pool. Go for a hike at a local park or climb a local hill. This will serve you well enough and provide a break in the routine that you may be craving.

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