The benefits of regular exercise are well-known and numerous. Once we get into a groove, exercise is a habit that turns into a routine. Sometimes, it's the routine aspect of exercise that can null the effectiveness of the exercise itself and limit our capability to increase our fitness. If you find yourself in this predicament or if you're looking to make improvements in your fitness - these are three must-haves you need in your exercise routine:
Whoa. There are SO MANY ways to incorporate strength into your exercise routine. "Strength training" is a way to add resistance to your workouts. That can be through lifting weights or performing bodyweight exercises. When thinking of strength training, think of using your body (with or without weights) pushing, pulling, lifting, and squatting. It gets even better! Plyometrics and hill sprints are also considered forms of strength training. The options are truly endless when it comes to strength training. By no means is this an exhaustive list - but this concept of moving your body in this manner can help you increase muscle strength and endurance. This in turn helps to increase bone density, improves cardiac function, and increases metabolism. All good things, right?
Form is paramount in strength training so if this is not a modality of exercise with which you are familiar, it's best to start with a few sessions from a personal trainer to help you find your form. A trainer can also assess your overall fitness goals and help you fit in strength training. If any females are wary of getting "too bulky" - that's a misguided perception. Women lack the hormones to make them bulky from a basic strength training routine, meaning they must try really, really, hard to "bulk up."
It's beneficial to add in some form of strength training 2-3 times per week. This can be in the form of lifting weights, circuit training, plyometric training, and more. Determine what would suit your personality, goals, and schedule best and go for it!
Interval training involves alternating measured intervals of difficult and easy, intensity and recovery, or varying degrees of difficulty. It's an important must-have with exercise because it's one of the most effective ways to increase your overall fitness capacity. By increasing your exertion level for a brief time and then allowing some measured amount of recovery, you'll increase your aerobic capacity which has beneficial trickle-down effects such as improved blood pressure and decreased risk for diabetes and heart disease.
No need to feel intimated by this recommendation. It can be as simple as alternating your walking speed by increasing your speed for thirty seconds and going back to your regular stroll for a minute or two. Repeat this pattern a few times in the middle of your regular walk. This same concept can be applied to other modalities of exercise - running, rowing, swimming, and biking. If you're new to exercise, you'll want to ease into interval training. There's no need to go all-out on your intervals from the get-go. Ease into this and give yourself time to experience the benefits as they accumulate over time.
Perhaps the most essential part to any exercise is rest. Without adequate rest, it's difficult (if not impossible) to keep up our intensity and show up for our workouts consistently. We can make gains with our fitness when we allow our muscles and minds rest from the work. This may mean one or two days off each week from intentional exercise (mowing the lawn and chasing your toddler are great activities but are probably not part of your regular exercise routine) and/or alternating higher- and lower-volume weeks of either intensity or duration. However you should incorporate rest - it is a must.
Taking a break from your routine will lower your risk of burnout and keep you exercising longer. And isn't that the ultimate goal? We want to enjoy our fitness for as many years as our bodies will let us.
Incorporating these must-haves will not only yield improved fitness but prevent boredom and keep you coming back for more as you see gains made. Enjoy a well-rounded fitness routine AND the benefits that come along with it!