Not seeing the results you want from your exercise routine? Exercise and Nutrition Scientist Kathleen Alleaume reveals how to make some minor tweaks to your workout, to get maximum results.
Are you putting in the hard yards, pounding the pavement, swimming endless laps or cycling for hours, but not seeing the results you want from your efforts?
Doing the same workout each and every time isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, if you’re getting bored, not getting a boost in your fitness level, or struggling to achieve or maintain your weight goals – then it could be time for a change. Mixing things up and giving yourself a new challenge can bring you great results. Try making some of the following changes to reach your goals.
Mix it up
Try switching back and forth between different speeds. For example, walk the length of three houses at your normal pace, then speed it up for the length of one house, repeating for the duration of your walk. As your body gets used to this pattern, try to increase the length of your faster walking by a house length during each interval until you’re walking faster the whole way. As you get fitter, aim to gradually increase your pace to keep challenging yourself – you could even graduate to jogging!
Think outside the box
Apart from your usual walking routine, try to find other opportunities to walk more. Borrow a dog from a friend or neighbour to take for a stroll, walk to the local shops instead of drive, walk the kids to school, or walk a little further to get lunch when you’re at work. This ‘little-by-little’ cumulative effect is the key to incidental exercise. Adding this extra activity to your usual walking regime can really help make a difference to both your fitness and weight loss goals without you even realising.
Hills are a sure-fire way to burn extra energy, build leg strength and ultimately improve your cycling. Instead of going for a ride around a flat course on the weekends, see if you can find a hill to add in. After a 5–10 minute warm-up ride, drop into a lower gear as you begin the hill. Try staying seated for 2 minutes, then stand up out of the saddle for 20 fast pedal strokes. Sit down again, recover for a minute or two, then repeat until you get to the top of the hill. Slowly ride back down the hill and repeat the whole process again. End with a 5–10 minute cool down. Beginners should start with a hill ride of 5 minutes and work up to about 15.
Give it a spin
When cycling outdoors isn’t an option, spin classes are a great indoor alternative. A huge benefit of spinning is that you’re in complete control of how fast you go and how much resistance you use (or how hilly your ride is!). Also, having the class lead by an instructor is like having your own personal trainer. They will encourage you to push yourself and help you to get the most out of each class.
Try a tempo run
Tempo runs are an excellent way to improve your speed and efficiency. A tempo run is running at a ‘comfortably hard’ pace (slightly faster than your normal running pace) for a certain amount of time. Your body will eventually adjust to this faster pace in your regular runs. Always start and end a tempo run with 5–10 minutes of warm up and then cool down. Build up your tempo runs from 5 minutes to 20 minutes as you improve.
Use a heart rate monitor
Whether you’re working out to control your weight, tone muscles, or simply maintain good health and fitness, a heart rate monitor can help you find the right pace and intensity of exercise, to help you achieve the best results. Keep a log of your heart rate monitor results to track your performance over time and pat yourself on the back whenever you see improvement! Prices start from $100. Use the instructions on the monitor to work out your target heart rate and how hard you should be training. This will help you to quickly and efficiently increase your fitness.
Watch the clock
Local swimming pools will usually have a clock at either end. So, take note of the time it takes you to complete a lap and work on improving it. To begin with, work out what your regular time is for a lap, then try to swim just one or two laps at a faster pace. You can slowly increase the number of laps that you swim at this faster pace and before you know it, every lap will be faster! Apart from a greater boost to your fitness, just like running, walking or cycling, the faster and therefore further you go in a certain amount of time, the more kilojoules you will burn.
If you already have your freestyle technique down pat, why not alternate between other strokes, such as breaststroke, backstroke or even butterfly. For instance, you could do three laps of freestyle and then one lap of breaststroke. The following week, alternate freestyle with another stroke. This will work different muscle groups and will increase your heart rate as your body adjusts to doing a different type of stroke leading to an improvement in your fitness.