So, you've incorporated exercise into your daily routine and made it habitual. But then it becomes TOO routine and grows stale and boring. Or, you don’t see additional benefits because you haven’t mixed it up enough. Here are seven easy ways to refresh your daily workout — and renew your enthusiasm.
1. Add An App
Create an on-the-go workout by adding an app to your mobile device. Just search the internet for fitness apps, and you’ll find plenty that’ll get you going.
Running apps like RunKeeper (free app) chart your progress as you become more fit, help you schedule regular workouts, and even deliver messages from encouraging friends. Or try 5K Runner if you want to move from couch potato to being able to run a 5K. It’s like a personal trainer at the touch of your finger.
Hot5 provides a ton of 5-minute video workouts, which flex your abs, strengthen your core and offer flexibility in the form of yoga routines. The up-to-date routines range in difficulty, and since the videos are only 5 minutes, you can start or finish your regular fitness routine with a new twist. Plus, it’s free, though you’ll need an iPhone for compatibility.
To reinvigorate your weight training, try TRN.TRAK. It schedules your week based on which muscles you’ll be strengthening that day. It provides a body map, which shows you each muscle group to work — plus, it keeps track of ones you haven’t worked for awhile and ones that need to rest. The log shows you how much more weight you’ve lifted as you progress, and you can even add a little competition by checking out your friend’s workout.
If you need hardcore motivation in the form of putting your money where your mouth is, GymPact might be the way to go. Once you commit to a specific amount of days per week, GymPact will keep track. If you don’t make your goal, it’ll charge your credit card (ouch), but if you do achieve your goal, you’ll get paid (wow). This bad boy is free and compatible with iPhone and Android.
If you really need to bring some action into your fitness world, apps like Zombies, Run! 2 infuse game playing into your workout, as you literally run to save the world — or yourself — from a world full of zombies. This one will cost you $2.99, but, hey, it’s cheaper than most movies.
2. Bring The Band
Fitness bands, worn around the wrist, track your activity, and even your quality of sleep, throughout the day and night.
These bands cost a bit — like the Jawbone UP24 ($150+), but it’s like a personal pest (only in a good way); you can set the alarms to remind you to move after you’ve been sitting too long. Other bands include similar prompts, like a red digital bar, which disappears once you start moving again.
Fitness bands have almost flooded the market, with companies ranging from Garmin, Misfit, Fitbit and Nokia, to Adidas and LG.
Waterproof wrist bands, often designed to look as fashionable as watches and bracelets, let you know how many calories you’ve burned in a day, as well as how many steps, miles, and swimming laps you may have taken.
Bands like Garmin’s act like a personal coach by giving you customized daily goals and nudging you further once you meet those goals.
And fitness bands aren’t limited to wrists. Companies like Misfit create necklaces and clips for alternative wear.
3. Roll On
Rollers are an often overlooked fitness tool. They not only help stretch and massage soft tissue, but also aid in strengthening.
Gone are the days of simple white physical therapy rollers. Companies like Gaiam offer long and short rollers that vary in texture — from soft to firm and smooth to ridged — and range in color from pink and blue to lime, orange, black and gray.
For example, Gaiam’s Restore Muscle Therapy Foam Roller helps increase circulation and release trigger points as you hold yourself up with your arms (strengthening) while rolling your quads (or any other muscle group) over the circular device. It increases flexibility and range of motion while massaging muscles. It’s also great for the IT bands, located on the outer sides of your thighs.
Focus on core strength with rollers through exercises like curls (hold your head with clasped hands, then, placing the roller under your lower back (just above the hip bones) gently arch back, and roll up into a curl); single leg bicycling; and pelvic tilts, holding the bridge pose.
4. Dress For Success
Let’s face it: New clothes make anything more fun.
Sometimes, you just have to coax your body into working out with a pair of form-fitting pants or a colorful top.
Fashionable fitness ranges from affordable stretchy clothing to high-tech material, like lulumom.com, with “anti-stink technology.”
You might purchase a skort to tastefully hide your bootie, until you sculpt it into prize-winning pant apparel.
Websites like zumba.com show off plenty of fun, colorful pants, tanks and sporty bras to highlight your abs.
5. Fuse It
These days, fusion classes are all the rage. DVDs and in-person classes meld the best moves of various forms of fitness, from yoga, Pilates and tai chi to kickboxing, barre, cardio and core. These classes target main muscle groups fast and efficiently, and inject spontaneity and excitement into your routine.
Try classes like Yo-Chi for stability, mobility, relaxation and strength or Pi-Yo to fuse the core strength of Pilates and the stretch of yoga. Other mind-body routines include Lawrence Biscontini’s Shake Your Buddha, which takes a playful approach to cardiovascular dance (and even introduces eyes-closed dancing).
Fusion classes allow for cross training, which can increase power, agility, strength and flexibility, since it targets most, if not all, of the body’s muscles. Athletes have used cross training, which is often just another term to describe fitness fusion, for decades because it keeps them motivated and functionally fit, by changing up movement patterns.
6. Add A Little Balance
Balance balls and discs can be a fun way to add a little “bounce” into your routine.
As we age, our abilities to balance naturally decline, so it’s important to practice balance skills to slow, or even stop, the decline.
Sit on a ball or disc at your desk, and you’ll strengthen your abs and improve your posture as you work. Products like Gaiam’s Balance Disc works core muscles. You can inflate and deflate it to adapt to your needs; more inflation means more work.
As a mid-morning or afternoon break, use the balance ball to strengthen core muscles by doing crunches, or work your hamstrings by assuming bridge pose and pulling the ball toward and away from your body, with your feet. To strengthen arms, walk your body away from the ball, until you’re in a plank position, with the tops of your feet balancing on the ball.
7. Get A Buddy
It’s amazing what friends can do for each other. The buddy system isn’t just a cute aphorism — it’s powerful.
Going to the gym, or even taking a power walk outside with a friend can freshen up an otherwise dull routine. As you catch up on the latest news, share inspiring stories and maybe even commiserate with each other, an hour of strengthening muscles or pumping in some cardio flies by.
Do your friend’s routine one day, then lead by example the other. Learning how someone else stays fit or does something different can be inspiring.
The two (or group) of you might also conspire to break out of usual environments — if you’re used to the gym, head outside for a hike, and if you’re used to outdoor sports, pop into the gym and check out the goodies just waiting to be played with.
Also, remember: Friends don’t just inspire; they keep each other accountable. Make a pact — or even sign a written agreement — outlining the amount of time (weekly or daily) you’ll work out. Then check up on one another. Don’t let one another off the hook. If one of you lags, provide a pep talk, or even offer a little treat, in the form of tea, coffee or maybe even a new pair of pants!
8. Keep It Fresh
Between the equipment gyms provide, classes at recreation centers, gyms and dance studios, outdoor opportunities, and the plethora of electronic resources (from apps and DVDs to youtube and other internet sites), there’s no excuse for falling into a dull routine.
Keep your workout fresh, and you’ll continue to see results, both in a firmer and more flexible body and in a more cheerful mind.
- Tracy Van Anderson, Colorado yoga & fitness instructor