October 2010

Is Your Fitness Program Constantly Varied?

Author: Craig Hysell | Photographer: John Brackett

Change. We all fear it and yet it’s rarely as bad as we thought it was going to be. Why we fear change is a separate can of worms, but the simple truth is this: If we are to grow, we must change, even if change is something we find terrifying. So maybe we should stop thinking of change as something so scary. Maybe we should start considering change for what it really is—something much more inspiring: evolution.

Have you ever been bored in the gym? Ever hit a plateau where gains have just stopped coming? Ever wonder if all this workout stuff is translating to your life outside the gym’s walls and, as a direct correlate, ask the really big question, what’s the point? Good, that’s normal. All of us that take being fit as not a luxury but a necessity have felt the same thing, and there is an answer to the big questions and the hopeless woes. It lies in one little secret: constantly varied programming.

Your fitness program should be just that: a program, not a routine. Routines create ruts and ruts create stagnation. You need to constantly shake up your fitness regimen if you want to consistently see results. That doesn’t mean go buy a Shake Weight or take up paddleboarding if you’re afraid of the ocean. You can constantly vary your program within a gym’s walls. You just have to be at the right gym around the right people. Here’s how to turn plateaus into mountains and never be bored again:

1. KNOW WHAT YOU WANT.
If you want to be fit, get around people who are fit. If you want to be a bodybuilder get around people who body build. Know what you want and know the difference. Bodybuilders work at isolating muscle groups to build hypertrophy. Fit people, if they are training correctly, train the body from the standpoint of functional movement. Functional movement is the kinesthetic theory in which the body was meant to work in concert with itself; meaning that all of our parts work with all of our other parts to create the most effective and efficient human machine possible. Hypertrophy is also a result of functional movement training, but not the only goal. Do you want to be a bodybuilder or an athlete? These are questions only you can answer, and there is no wrong answer.

2. GET AROUND SMART PEOPLE.
If you want to be a bodybuilder, get around bodybuilders. If you want to compete in triathlons, get around triathletes. If you want to be in a constantly varied program that has no chance of letting you plateau or allowing boredom to creep into your existence, Google “constantly varied programming” and see what comes up. Educate yourself on what you want, and then go find those people and learn from them. Keep an open mind at all times; find what works for you.

3. BE WILLING.
Everything has its price; sometimes it costs more than your hard-earned dollar. Fitness is a commitment. It takes discipline, courage, self-reliance, and accountability. It is your time to be selfish, to enjoy your body and focus your mind. It often takes a sacrifice. In our busy world, it can be difficult to stay committed to being fit, especially if we are bored or have hit a plateau. Give yourself the edge by constantly varying your program! If you falter in your commitment to yourself, you have no right to complain about the results.

4. HIRE AN INSTRUCTOR.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, can take the place of a competent instructor, trainer or coach, and when you have found one, you will know it. Does the instructor listen to you? Does he or she demand safe, efficient, effective technique with a full range of motion? Does he or she scale workouts to fit your needs, capacity or injury status? Do you have time to talk during your workout or are you there to work out? Does the instructor push you? Does he or she pull you back when necessary? Is he or she patient? Knowledgeable? A teacher makes all the difference, good or bad. Make sure you are grading your teacher as much as he or she is grading you. (Hint: The good ones won’t mind you grading them at all.)

In short, your fitness program should be like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates: You should never know what you’re gonna get. The program should feel random, but be as far from random as possible—that’s yet another benefit to being at the right gym around the right people. You should learn something every day you step into your gym, from your instructor and about yourself. You should stay safe and above all, have fun!

Do that and you will never be bored, never hit plateaus, never fear change or ever wonder if it’s all worth it. That’s a heck of nice way to walk through life. That’s how you evolve…

Craig Hysell is co-owner of CrossFit Hilton Head and a Level I Certified CrossFit Trainer.

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