Variety Is The Spice of Life, Part 2 – Exercise

In my last blog, I talked about the importance of eating a variety of whole foods to reap the benefits of all the different nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals – all good stuff that helps keep us healthy and protect us from chronic diseases. It is equally important to also mix it up when it comes to physical activity. I personally have seen awesome results by trying new things and mixing them up often.

Several years ago some friends encouraged me to run the Seaside Half-Marathon. Now mind you, I have never been a runner. I had always looked at runner’s physiques and wished I was a runner, and although I love to exercise, running had never been my favorite activity. I did actually end up run/walking my way over the finish line. I was exhaustedly thrilled to have completed my goal, but I knew at that moment that was a bucket list item I could check off and never have to do again. Some people after running a half-marathon get the bug to run a full 26.2. Not so much for me. Did I mention too that I gained 5 pounds throughout the training process and did not end up with that runner’s physique I was shooting for.

In the end, it was a good experience for me, not only did I accomplish something, it also cemented the fact that running is not what I enjoy. Some people love it…but not me. Since then, I have lost about 15 or so pounds by of course changing my eating, but also largely, I feel, due to changing up my workouts and finding what works best for my body. I think often people try to force their bodies to do certain types of exercise because other people want them to or it is supposed to be good for them. I have found the best benefits though from doing things I thoroughly enjoy and want to stick with.

I have seen that often people who are trying to lose weight will do the same exercises or exercise classes day in and day out, and week in and week out, but struggle to reach their goals. When you do the same type of exercise exclusively over and over your body builds certain specific strengths. Cross-training is a way of varying your physical activity to incorporate a variety of activities into your exercise routine and work different muscles.

Cross-training or switching up your physical activity has many benefits:

– Reduces boredom and getting in that exercise rut

– Allows flexibility with your workouts (if the pool is closed, you can go for a run instead)

– Produces a higher level of all around conditioning

– Reduces the risk of injury

– Improves your skill, agility, and balance

By switching up your activity, you broaden your physical abilities and increase results. Trying new things and mixing up your workout helps to keep your body guessing which improves muscle tone and can increase weight loss. I have seen it personally and with clients that switching things up with your workouts works. Whether it is adding some strength training of some sort – even through Pilates or yoga, or upping the intensity of your workouts, it is critical to mix it up from day to day and week to week.

I am regularly trying new things and looking for new and interesting ways to sweat it out. Last Fall I decided to take a tennis clinic. Well, it turns out I LOVE it and it is great exercise. It is also something I can get out and do with my husband – which is fun! Around the same time I also took up hot yoga at Yoga Quest and have been doing that pretty consistently once a week. I never really took the time to stretch before, so taking an hour and a half once a week to just stretch, sweat, and breathe has had a major positive impact both physically and mentally for me. Hot yoga isn’t for everyone, but yoga can be. Just taking the time to slow down is a huge stress reliever and stress also plays a role in weight loss and health. Most recently I tried a barre class at Pilates Pavilion, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Barre is a ballet/Pilates inspired workout using 2-3 pound weights that is touted to give you a “long, lean dancer’s body” – think Madonna or Gwyneth Paltrow, both do barre. It is an amazing, challenging workout that I plan to continue to incorporate as often as I can.

So, I challenge you to try a new exercise class or a different type of work out. If you are a runner, get wild and try Zumba or go check out that yoga or barre class I mentioned. Just get moving and switch it up! Most importantly, HAVE FUN! Find what you like and enjoy every minute of it!