Vitamin V—For Variety

Health clubs are often vibrant and invigorating environments, but when you spend as much time in gyms as I do, you can easily identify regulars in a rut. If you can accurately assess the day and time based on which cardio fanatic is on which treadmill and which gym rat is buried in his third set of bench presses, well…it’s time to dole out a mega-dose of vitamin V. These folks (and their workout programs) desperately need some variety.

Successful exercise regimens are founded on an inherent contradiction. It requires diligence and discipline to stick with a routine (a particular number of workouts per week for a particular duration, usually on particular days). But once you’ve locked yourself into a workable schedule that will attain the results you seek, it’s best to avoid such habitual behavior inside the gym.

The body is a wonder of adjustments and readjustments. If it recognizes your pattern of using a certain series of machines on a regular basis, it will acclimate to this pattern/workload and thereby limit results.
Since the mind and body both need stimulation, it’s also crucial to factor in the monotony of doing the same things on the same days at the same time. If you become unconsciously bored or distracted, results will, again, grind to a glacial pace.

Once tedium sets in, it’s not unusual for even the most dedicated fitness mavens to lose focus. Here are a few tips to help avoid this outcome.

Personal trainer: Just about every gym offers the service of personal training. A certified professional can inject new life into your workout by teaching you how to vary movements, intensity and workout structure.

Search engine: Try a Google search to see what else is out there. Find credible websites and videos or join forums to brainstorm with others seeking variety.

Get outside: Leave the indoor gym environment behind at least one day a week and join a team, buy a bike, find a swimming pool or running track. Take up something new like rock climbing, martial arts or parkour.

Relocate: Find a new gym. Sometimes a change of venue can feel like a shot of adrenalin.

Wing it: This is my favorite rut-removal remedy. At least once a week (even better, do this for a month), allow yourself to make it up as you go along. Don’t get caught up in body parts, sets and reps, etc. Experiment in the gym, try new machines, sign up for classes, ask questions and surprise yourself.

Remember, in the gym, the most important muscle to flex is your imagination.

Final note: The advice presented above is not meant for anyone with contraindicated health problems. Please consult a medical or fitness professional.

The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association estimates that there are 29,000 fitness centers or gym clubs in the US.