One of the biggest components of success when it comes to fitness is changing your exercise program or varying it up on a regular basis. If you are always running, always swimming, always lifting weights, but not doing anything else, your fitness level will never be able to reach its full potential. Sure, you probably can run great distances, swim like a fish and lift heavy amounts of weight, but what else can you do? You sure do not want to limit yourself to just one or two things.
Why vary your exercise program if what you are doing works? Well, one of the problems with always doing the same activity is that you are stressing the same muscles and joints without giving them some much needed rest. Ever hear of tennis elbow or runner’s knees? The reason these injuries are so common is because these body parts are continuously being used (and stressed) without getting a break. They are also not getting the necessary support from surrounding muscles that can help keep them strong and decrease the risk of injury. Think about the last time you did a lot of push-ups or squats. You probably felt it the next day in the muscles you worked. Imagine if you do those same exercises nearly every day. Your quadriceps, chest and shoulders will get stronger, but what about the rest of your body? How about your hamstrings, back and biceps? Getting fit means working all of your muscles—not just the same ones over and over again.
Another reason to change your routine is that you want to be well-rounded with regards to your fitness. Your goal does not have to be limited to one thing like getting stronger or running faster. It should be both of those and then some. Flexibility also comes into play with regards to fitness. Those overused muscles need to stretch and the more flexible you become, the less prone to injury you will be when you take on more intense or difficult exercises.
And do not forget the dreaded plateau that we all hit every now and again. Rather than trying to increase your running distance by running longer or lifting even heavier weights than you are now, take a complete one-hundred and eighty degree turn and try a new activity. Runners can become lifters and vice versa. Whatever your usual activity of choice is, banish it for a few days and try something completely different. Your body will not know what to do—other than burn lots of calories trying to take on a new challenge.
But what if you really enjoy the activity you currently do and do not want to change? There is no reason to give up what you love. In fact, that is the main reason why people are likely to stay with an exercise program—because they found something they really enjoy doing and that keeps them motivated. But again, you run the risk of injuring yourself down the line if you are only doing one particular exercise that consistently taxes a specific muscle group or joint. This can eventually lead to an injury that may prevent you from continuing with the activity you love so much.
Exercise should not be habitual. If you find you have a habit of always doing the same exercise or routine, break it up a few times a week. You may find that a new activity or exercise program is not only enjoyable but also helps you improve on the one you are already doing on a regular basis. For example, if you are a power lifter, you may find that a Pilates class that emphasizes core exercises gives you more strength and stability when you lift those heavy weights over your head. If you are a tennis player, lower body strength exercises can not only improve your lateral, forward and reverse movements making you a better (and faster) player, but it will also decrease your risk of injury when you move this way.
Old habits are hard to break, but your body needs variety—not just for better fitness, but for better protection against overuse injuries down the road. Do what you love—but do not make it your only source of exercise.