Clients often tell me that they love how much variation their workouts include—and that’s something I’m proud of. I believe variation is the key to keeping exercise fun.
For many people, fun workouts are not a reality; after dragging themselves to the gym, they slog through a treadmill workout and maybe pick up a few weights—every single time.
Luckily, variation is relatively easy to build into your workout routine. It could be as simple as:
- Elliptical on Monday
- Weight training on Tuesday
- Treadmill and circuit training on Thursday
This variety gives you something to look forward to; no more, “Ugh, I can’t do another day on the treadmill!”
The best part: variation doesn’t just ensure that your workouts are more fun, but it also allows you to strengthen a variety of muscles, improving your overall calorie burning power (muscle burns more calories than fat).
There are many ways to add variation to your routine (even if you don’t know a lot about exercise) that will improve adherence (motivation), keep your body guessing and help you build more muscle and endurance.
Vary Your Workout Location
Workouts don’t have to look the same every time and they don’t have to be at the same place either. The Internet—YouTube—has made it possible to access at-home workout videos, for free, wherever you have an Internet connection.
Use this to your benefit. If you can’t seem to motivate yourself to get to the gym, and have a decent amount of space in your home (or elsewhere: patio, lawn, garage), at-home workout videos may be more appealing.
For some people, this situation is simply a reality. For parents, leaving the house for an early-morning workout may not be possible. Here are a few places to find great workouts:
Fitness Blender is my favorite source for at-home workouts. Here are a few of my favorite ones:
- Fat-Burning Cardio Workout
- Sweatfest Butt and Thigh Interval Cardio Workout
- Upper Body Strength and Cardio Workout
- Upper Body Superset Workout
If you’re not a workout video kind of person, just get outside. Instead of the traditional workout you usually do, take a hike, go paddle boarding, take a run through the woods or rent a kayak.
Vary Your Workout Types
Whether you prefer running or weights, it’s important that you use variation to focus on both throughout the week. Cross-training is important for runners, allowing them to build better all-over strength, reducing injury, while running is great for weight lifters, increasing fat burn and endurance.
Plan for at least one different workout a week—as a runner, that’s one strength-training session and vice versa. Don’t forget to try HIIT (Get some ideas here!), Tabata, circuit training, yoga
Vary Your Load
Lifting heavy every time you workout can get exhausting, it takes a lot out of you, mentally and physically. Luckily, there are benefits to creating fun workouts by varying the load you’re lifting: The amount of weight you lift determines whether you’re building strength, endurance or hypertrophy (muscle definition). For example:
- Lifting light: Higher reps (12-14), training for muscle endurance
- Lifting medium: Medium reps (8-12), training for hypertrophy
- Lifting heavy: Low reps (3-8), training for strength and
Using a variety of weights will allow you to continue building strength, while toning. It’s also one of the easiest ways to bring variation into your workouts when you’re strength training or lifting. You can change this day-by-day or week-by-week, whichever works best with your schedule and goals.
Vary Your Focus
Everyone wants six pack abs and chiseled arms, but that doesn’t mean you should only work those parts of your body. Not only will this lead to yet another boring workout, but it can also cause over training and muscle imbalances.
Muscle imbalances occur when you overuse one muscle group, ignoring another, reducing the action, and therefore strength, of that muscle or muscle group. This can occur as a result of your workout or even your lifestyle. “The cause of exercise imbalances can occur from improper weight workouts, performing one-sided-type sports such as tennis, or having a job that requires a high level of physical activity in only one muscle or muscle group,” says Dr. Phil Maffetone.
Common areas for muscle imbalances are:
- Upper body and lower body
- Chest and shoulders
- Core and lower back
- Quads and hamstrings
If you’ve introduced variations and are still struggling to find the motivation to work out, consider whether you’re overtraining. I recently struggled with this. As someone who genuinely loves training, it was difficult to understand. Finally, I realized what my body was telling me: Take a break!
I took a full week off, with a yoga class to start the week and another to cap it off, and was rejuvenated in a way I didn’t know I was possible.
Note that other signs of overtraining include chronic inflammation and progress plateaus.
As you can see, variation is not only the key to creating fun workouts, but it’s important to staying motivated and building overall strength.
What inspired this post was a great video from Mind Body Green, one of my favorite health and wellness websites. You can watch below.