By LaTricia Morris, Author, Illustrator, Integrative Wellness Counselor and Founder of See Kids Thrive & Eden Life Ministries

Coasting Through Cardio

Some days it can be all too easy to let that brain just zone out and slip into neutral on a jog or in an aerobic exercise we’re doing for the umpteenth time.  To increase your fitness, you’ll need to venture out of that comfort zone at least a couple times a week to the point where you get winded and can feel that heart pounding.

Try adding some variation with HIIT workouts (High Intensity Interval Training).  {*Be sure you’re cleared medically/physically here first.}. You don’t have to invest in any particular program to do this.  For example, after warming up 10 minutes on a treadmill, you can bump up the speed or incline for 30-60 seconds, then recover 1-3 minutes and repeat.  Keep alternating for 10-20 minutes, then cool down.  Over time, you can increase your intensity or the duration of your intervals.

Betrothing Your Strength Routine

If you do the same routine over and over, your muscles eventually just adapt and your results plateau, as each exercise only stimulates a limited number of muscle fibers.

Challenge your muscles from a variety of angles by adding or alternating moves periodically.  Try learning an additional 2-3 moves or machines.  Be sure you take advantage of trainers and resources to teach you how to do the moves correctly to prevent injury and achieve better results.  You want to expand your repertoire enough to change it out completely every 6-8 weeks.

Exercising Too Hard Too Often

If you don’t rest enough between cardio and strength workouts, your results will start to suffer.  This was a big one for me when I was about 18.  I thought I had to workout every day and felt like if I didn’t, I’d be right back to where I started and I was not about to let that happen.  The problem was, once I’d hit the wall, I fell out of routine pretty well altogether and it was years before I brought myself back around to it.

Lifting the Wrong Amount of Weight

Yes, there’s actually a science to achieving your desired results with strength training.  If you’re weights are too light, you get any stronger.  If the weights are too heavy, you’ll compromise proper form and increase the risk of injury.  Lifting too heavy actually cheats the target muscle group by forcing your body to recruit other muscle groups to compensate and complete the task.

In general, you want to use less weight and more reps to lean out and increase endurance; more weight and less reps to increase strength.

Increase the weight to boost bone density, muscle mass and tone.  For significant strength building, perform 4-6 reps per set at a way that challenges the muscle group sufficiently while still allowing you to complete the full move.  For more moderate strength building, decrease the weight but go to 8-12 reps per set.  You should be choosing weights that you struggle to lift through the final few reps but not so heavy that your form fails.  If you breezed through your final rep easily enough, try increasing your weights by 5-10% per set until you reach the weight that’s right for you.  You may find that as you increase the weight, you have to decrease the reps.  This is fine so long as the muscle is fatigued by the final rep.

Doing Reps Incorrectly

A quick way to sabotage your fitness plans are to do your reps incompletely, too quickly or with bad form.  Examples of this would be in doing push-ups where you don’t go all the way down but rather just kindly get about 30% motion on those elbows (incompletely),  or when you use the joints more like springs and just bounce from one rep to the next (too quickly), or when you have that butt way up in the air or slumping to the floor (bad form).  

Doing them incompletely, you don’t get the full range of motion in the move and consequently don’t work all the muscles you should be.  

Doing them too quickly robs you of results because you’re essentially using momentum, rather than strength, to complete the move.  You don’t build muscle this way.  You only cheat yourself.  

Doing them with bad form doesn’t get you results, it gets you achy and injured.  This will absolutely interfere with your fitness schedule when you’re forced to stay down for recovery.  You may get sick of hearing this from me but good form is key to good results!

Make sure you ready yourself in the proper starting position and slowly but intentionally complete the full rep.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Reap.

Using Energy Like You’re Out to Conserve It

Yeah, I caught myself doing this one enough earlier on to be sure to include it here.  When I was trying out a new routine (or knew what to expect with a more intense one I’d done before), I would find myself scaling back on the power I would bring to the moves like I was trying to save my energy to use later in the workout.  Yet, what I found was that it just led to less and less energy throughout as I was essentially telling my body to scale back and conserve.

I can’t tell you what a huge difference when I started telling myself “it’s not time to save energy, it’s time to make it!”  You’ll feel when it’s too much and that’s where it is totally okay to scale back but keep moving.  If you start cramping up or dizzy, yeah, you should probably sit down or walk it out for a minute.  What you don’t want to listen to is that voice that whines “I’m just too tired… I don’t wanna…”  That voice will suck the life out of your workout.  Stuff a sock in it and step to the plate.

If you want results, you’ve gotta bring it.

Putting Fitness in a Box

We often think that a workout has to consist of a fitness film rolling on the living room tellie or coaches slinging sweat over us as they assure us that “we can do this!!!”  Some of us love all of this and some of us hate it enough to pass on it all together.  

While these are all good and I do use them, I also don’t want you to underestimate the fitness potential found in other activities.  Some friends think I’m nuts as they watch me scramble up the oak in my backyard and I certainly get my fair share of looks as a hurl bags of mulch into my car, work my landscaping or haul the heavies.  

How about the other day when I determined to get our garage cleared out and rearranged.  Oh how my husband wished he could have seen and recorded my getting that 8ft artificial Christmas tree up into the attic.  Very large, very heavy box.  Very small opening.  The struggle was real, honey, the struggle was real!  So, no, I didn’t get in a typical workout but, no doubt about it, I worked!

Exercise doesn’t have to be boring or monotonous.  Hit the trail or ride some bikes with the family.  Grab a game of tennis with a friend or bring a volleyball to the family reunion.  

There are many ways to make fitness fun and exciting, embracing it as a joy, gift and blessing that you’re able to bust those moves when so many just can’t.


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