Variety is often touted as the way to “surprise” your muscles and get results. Yet for many of us, once we discover a form of exercise we actually like, we tend to stick to it pretty exclusively, doing the same workouts over and over again.
It’s easy to get stuck in the same fitness routine without ever switching it up, so we sought out three fitness pros and asked them what they find valuable about trying new workouts — and why they advise their clients to do the same.
In some cases, they stood by the traditional thinking that changing things up in the gym will help you bust through plateaus. But achieving a certain look isn’t the only thing on these trainers’ minds. They also brought up setting goals, injury prevention and the importance of having fun with fitness. With their unique backgrounds and points of view, each of them inspired us to refresh our workout routines.
The Functional Mover
Nike trainer and yoga instructor Irina Andreea likes to try every workout class at least once. Her favourite workouts are full body routines that typically include mobility work, weight training, plyometrics and yoga.
“If I’m doing a weight-training workout, I’ll add some animal flow or yoga movements in between,” she says. “Sometimes those body weight movements are more challenging than the weights portion!” She believes maintaining a balance between intense routines and gentler forms of movement is important. “Ultimately, I know what works for my body and what pushes me through the workout,” says Irina. “It’s important to listen to your body.”
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When it comes to her own classes, she might be less likely to change things up depending on the participants’ fitness levels. Creativity plays a role when she’s coming up with routines for her clients, but so does repetition. “Working on perfecting their form is very important before changing up a routine too much,” she says. “Repetition in that case is very important until the basic movements are done correctly to avoid injury.”
When she’s not motivating others, Irina is interested in learning about alternative forms of exercise. Lately, she’s intrigued by natural movement, which uses the body’s full range of motion and helps people reconnect with their environment.
The Class Leader
Christine Tessaro is the founder of Toronto studio Spokehaus, and as such, is an avid spinner and spin instructor. With a calendar packed with daily classes – that’s 45 minutes of high-intensity, low-impact cardio on the bike every day – Christine’s busy doing what she loves.
“It’s a full body workout because we incorporate upper body movements and light hand weights,” she says. “I do this 7 days a week and it never gets old.” However, the energetic entrepreneur says she believes wholeheartedly in changing up your workout routine. Seeing that she had an opportunity to put that into practice, Christine’s begun incorporating pilates and boxing into her schedule.
“I want to be better at this – spinning 7 times a week allows me to make excuses when it comes to other workouts – but I see the best results when I switch things up,” she says. Trying a brand new style of movement isn’t the only way to add variety to your fitness routine. If you’re loyal to your favourite classes, Christine suggests making adjustments so that your muscles aren’t getting a repetitive workout.
“I encourage my riders to bring variety into class by switching up their weights, or putting on just a little more resistance than they are used to,” she says. “This [will help] my riders get stronger and better than they were yesterday, and that type of accomplishment feels amazing.”
The Mix Master
Julian Ho is a fitness entrepreneur and holistic health coach who believes that trying something new in any area of your life is an impactful way to change your perspective. Variety is one of the key principles of his fitness philosophy.
“The key is to develop a wider range of skills and abilities so that you become more adaptable. It prevents injury in a much more functional way because your body can respond faster,” he says. “[It’s like a] sixth sense, your awareness of your own body, called proprioception.” Trying different exercises also prevents people from developing blind spots or poor habits. When we asked him to describe his workouts, the value of incorporating various types of movement became instantly clear.
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“It’s a mix of yoga, animal flow, Olympic lifting, Crossfit, Swiss ball exercises and balance,” says Julian. “You’ve got a lot going on!” But his personal fitness goals also help shape his workouts. “The more specific the goal is, the less variety across disciplines would be advised,” says Julian. He’s currently training for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, and so he’s focused on exercises related to running. “I won’t do a ballet class, then a Crossfit class and then an animal flow class. I’ll do that when I’m not training [for the marathon].”
He says trying new things in life – and in the gym! – helps you appreciate your strengths, humbles you and gives you a fresh outlook. “You throw in a routine that changes things up so that you can change your perspective on what you’re currently doing. It’s like a splash of cold water on your face.”