Change helps escape work-out plateaus

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The exercise rut. We’ve all been there. We exercise, eat right (most of the time) and often see results within the first few weeks of a new workout.

Then, as we fall into a routine, our results seem to come more slowly and then level off. We work harder but nothing seems to work. Sound familiar?

As in so many arenas of life, we work harder when what we need to do is work smarter. Albert Einstein coined the definition of insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Of this, we are guilty.

Routine, while in some cases very good, like the routine of brushing one’s teeth, can also lead to a rut, which by definition is a settled and monotonous routine that is hard to escape. Rut leads to plateau, which is a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress.

Change, however, has many positive definitions, including to become different in some particular way without permanently losing former characteristics or essence, or to undergo a change, cause to change, make different or cause a transformation.

That’s what I want: to be transformed in spirit, mind and body.

But change is hard. And it’s not impossible. Think about your current level of health and fitness. Are you happy with where you are? What does your doctor recommend? Are you putting off changing something until “later” or “on Monday” or “before summer?” What are you really waiting for?

If we’re brutally honest, I suspect we’re just plain afraid. Some of us are afraid of failure, but more of us are afraid of success.

It’s scary to make changes, but without change there is no progress. So, let’s keep this simple and focused on change in your fitness routine. You can work on other levels of change with your counselor or spiritual adviser.

Changing your workout can be as simple as changing the days of the week you devote to exercise. For example, you might usually do your cardio routine — such as walking, running, swimming, biking — on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays while you do your weight routine on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Simply swapping those days is enough to make a change and see a difference in your body.

Are you addicted to cardio exercise? If you’re female and an avid exerciser the answer is quite possibly yes. Switch things up a bit and begin working on your strength. Not only will you notice the change in your physique, you’ll also increase your metabolic rate and quite possibly strengthen and increase your bone density, which in view of your overall health, is significantly more important than physique alone.

Maybe you recognize this scenario: You walk into the gym and notice someone is on “your machine.” This causes a great deal of frustration and you might even notice that you don’t quite know what to do, so you do nothing at all.

In fact, this situation sends you right back to the locker room and out the door, maybe even complaining on the way out that the room is too crowded and there are not enough machines.

Instead of leaving, try something else. Ask a floor staff member for a recommendation, try a group exercise class if one is in session, or just go to a different machine. But don’t leave. Consider this minor hiccup in your routine an invitation to change things up.

Remember Einstein’s definition of insanity? This is your chance. Take it.

Men, participating in group exercise classes can change your life. I’ve seen it happen many times, but not nearly enough. There’s something about the threshold to the group exercise room that scares men off. Literally. I see it every day.

I have my theories as to why this happens and I would like to challenge those men to prove me wrong. While I realize some classes cater more to women, I also know those men who do venture into group exercise often stay and see amazing results.

So, yes, keep lifting, but don’t be afraid of group exercise.

So why wait? Embrace the opportunity to do something different. Afraid to go it alone? Grab a workout buddy, sign up with a personal trainer, try a new group fitness class or head to the pool.

You might just find that the rut you’re in isn’t nearly as deep as you thought. Change is just around the corner. Go after it.

Leslie Snyder is senior program director of Healthy Living at the Walla Walla YMCA. She holds professional certifications with the American Council on Exercise as an advanced health and fitness specialist, health coach, personal trainer and group fitness instructor. She can be reached at lsnyder@wwymca.org.

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