These days, it almost goes without being said that when it comes to working out, variety is essential. It’s important to mix up your workouts for several different reasons. Physically, fitness editor Heather Dale explains that engaging in different types of physical activity helps to keep your fitness levels from plateau-ing: “Adding variety to your workouts will keep your exercises from becoming ineffective. If you run at the same speed on the treadmill everyday for 20 minutes, your body will eventually hit a plateau. You will still be burning calories, but you’ll need to increase your resistance levels or speed if you want to really maximize results.”
Variety is the Spice of Life
Psychologically, the fact of the matter is that engaging in the same workouts repeatedly can contribute to not only a physical, but a mental plateau. If you’re getting bored by running on the treadmill for thirty minutes each day, it will become less and less appealing to go to the gym or spend your valuable time on exercise at all. Trying new activities helps hold your interest and ensures that your mind is stimulated by the workout, too.
To be honest, I struggle with this daily: As a runner, who’s interested in becoming fast and improving my times, it can be hard to sacrifice the time I would usually spend running to do something else. Part of the problem is that I like running, so it doesn’t always feel like a treat to spend my time lifting weights. This attitude is fairly common among runners or athletes of any type in which one of the only ways to improve is by doing the activity itself (and trust me, I’m not saying that this is a good thing). Competitor even notes that “as recently as 15 years ago, few elite runners did much in the way of cross-training, which I like to define broadly to include all forms of resistance training, stretching, and non-impact endurance training activities such as bicycling. Non-impact alternatives to running were grudgingly taken up only when injuries made running impossible and were quickly cast aside when running was resumed.”
Whether or not running is your activity of choice, cross-training is essential to develop your body and your mind. Take this winter to try new alternatives, classes, and workouts that you’ve been considering, but never attempted.
Three New Workouts to Try This Winter
- Spin Classes: Spin classes are top-of-mind for me at the moment, because I recently returned from Los Angeles where I took my first-ever SoulCycle class! I’d never taken a spin class before, and I was absolutely terrified. It ended up being a phenomenal workout, though, and I met other athletes who were completely dedicated to the sport. There’s something inspiring about having an instructor in front of you who can see how hard you’re working, which is an incentive I don’t usually have on long twenty-mile solo runs. SoulCycle used to only be in cities like San Francisco and New York, but they’re rapidly expanding to other cities across the country (even smaller ones like Skokie, IL), so it’s worth checking to see if there’s a studio in your city. If not, spin studios are popping up just about everywhere, and most gyms like Lifetime Fitness feature some sort of spin program.
- Kickboxing: I’m a little snobby about how I get in cardio workouts: Running is such a great way to indulge in cardio, so I have pretty high standards for how I can work in forms of cardiovascular workouts that train other muscles. I took a kickboxing class in an attempt to switch up my routine, and the class definitely met my standards for a phenomenal workout without the heavy pounding and leg strain that often accompanies speedy runs. Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande, Adriana Lima, and Nick Jonas are all celebs who’ve hopped onto the kickboxing train: “Boxing is a superior workout because it not only provides fantastic cardio benefits by raising the heart rate and keeping it elevated, but it also works the core muscles—especially the abdominals, obliques, and upper body—and helps with hand eye coordination.”
- Belly Dancing: Okay, bear with me on this one: Belly dancing may sound like your worst nightmare. If it does, I know how you feel. When my sister dragged me to a belly-dancing class, “skeptical” is probably an understatement for how I felt about it. I was partly right, because I was absolutely terrible at it, and honestly made a complete fool of myself. However, there’s no doubt that it trained my core like few other workouts I’ve ever done. As Rania Androniki Bossonis, author of Belly Dancing for Fitness (Fair Winds Press, 2004) explains, belly dancers aren’t just wiggling their hips, they’re getting an ab workout that sculpts almost every single muscle in their core — even the hard-to-target, deep transverse abdominals.” If you want to try belly dancing in the privacy of your home, Bossonis gives a few 10-minute workouts to Fitness Magazine However, it’s also pretty gratifying to overcome your embarrassment and take a class with the full understanding that you won’t be perfect, and that’s okay.
If you try out any of these options, let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to see how you keep your workouts diverse and exciting.