Everyone knows that one guy or gal who’s obsessed with their favorite workout. Maybe it’s the gym bro who only does strength training. Or it could be the woman you see at the grocery store who is always on her way to Pilates.
It’s cool to do your own “thing,” but it’s a bit shortsighted to neglect adding variety to your training routine.
Varying your training has a powerful psychological benefit of helping you stick to your workout. A study at the University of Florida found that people with a variable exercise program were less likely to skip workouts. They even enjoyed exercising more than those who only did one kind of exercise.[i]
But variety reaches beyond the mental hurdles of training. There are a host of physical benefits to mixing up your routine too.
If you want to build a strong, healthy body that supports your everyday activities and enables you to age gracefully, make sure your routine includes the following components:
· Cardiovascular training: Cardio has many health benefits including a suggested link between cardiovascular health and life expectancy.
· Strength training: Resistance training decreases body fat, increases bone density, increases muscle mass, and improves strength and power.
· Flexibility: Improved flexibility will help correct muscle imbalances, relieve joint stress, and increase joint range of motion.[iv]
Focusing on only one type of exercise and ignoring some the above elements can lead to muscle imbalances and injury. Varying your routine will give your body balance both aesthetically and physiologically.
Try adding these different types of workouts to your weekly schedule to ensure you’re getting the best variety for a healthy body.
The standard corporate gym down the street might seem boring, but it really does have something for everyone. Any decent gym should have a good selection of free weights, cardio equipment, and maybe some fun extras like kettlebells and exercise balls.
Resistance training with free weights is the gold standard for building a strong body while incorporating core stability and balance. Unlike machines which place the body in a fixed plane of motion, free weights engage the core and require greater balance. For an added boost, try the dumbbell variations of traditional exercises (bench press, deadlift, shoulder press) to address muscle imbalances.
You can also hop on a treadmill or bike while at the gym, although it’s not the most exciting use of time. If you’re trying to combine cardio and strength training on the same day, consider which to do first. It’s usually best to do your top priority first. So if you’re training for a 10k but also want to do some cross training with weights, go ahead and hit the treadmill first. For serious lifters, do your resistance training first while your muscles are fresh, then treat cardio as a cool down.
CrossFit can be a great alternative to hiring a personal trainer at a gym. Any reputable CrossFit Box should be led by skilled coaches. They’ll come in handy when you’re trying to learn advanced lifts like overhead squats and snatches. Combine these full body lifts with time-based WODs and you’ve got a demanding workout that both builds muscle and gets your heart pumping.
The big Olympic lifts require a solid core, so expect to see big core stability improvements as you progress. Most CrossFit coaches also understand the importance of mobility work. You may find yourself loosening up your shoulders with a PVC pipe or opening up your thoracic spine on a foam roller.
CrossFit is a strong community which means you benefit not only from your coach’s instruction but also from the motivation from your training partners. While you might catch someone giving you a weird stare at a commercial gym, at CrossFit you’ll be surrounded by like-minded, supportive individuals.
Yoga is the perfect complement to many other types of training, especially running and lifting. Yoga is more than just stretching. Depending on the style, yoga can be an intense cardio workout or a deep muscular release. In any style, you’ll develop better balance, flexibility, and core strength.
Although you may find a yoga class offered at your local gym, the best instruction is from teachers at dedicated yoga studios. Most studios only hire instructors who are RYT-200 or RYT-500 certified. That means your instructor has logged 200 (or 500) hours of intense training on anatomy and safety. A good yoga teacher should be able to assist you in class and help you safely modify challenging poses.
Yoga studios also offer a variety of styles. There are even studios that specialize in just one style. If you’re ready for an intense sweat session, check out your neighborhood Hot Yoga studio. For athletes using yoga to recover from other training, check out a Yin or Restorative class.
Interval Training Gym
Interval Training Gyms are an exciting new addition to the workout scene. These are popping up in different forms like boxing and kickboxing routines or kettlebell and bodyweight circuits.
Interval training is short but intense. You’ll sweat and burn lots of calories in a typical interval class. And unlike home routines, you’ll have a teacher and classmates who motivate you to keep going.
If you’re someone who can’t stand the thought of stomping away on a treadmill, these fun classes can be a much more entertaining way to get a cardio workout. And unlike traditional cardio equipment, you’ll get a strength-building boost as well.
But interval training is best known for being an amazing fat burner. Try some high intensity interval training (HIIT) for maximum benefit. HIIT training not only burns calories while you train but also raises your post-exercise metabolism.
Mix it Up
If your training has been a little stale, go out there and add some variety to your weekly routine. Not only will you be more motivated to wake up and work out, but your body will look and feel better.
These options are meant to inspire, but you’re definitely not limited to just these four gyms. Pilates and Barre offer many of the same benefits as yoga. Or if you can’t get enough of the burn from an intense spin class, hit up a spin studio for killer cardio.
Written By: Megan Baird