Change, change again, and then change again!
How is your training going?
Core Principle 9 of Mother Nature’s Diet says ‘Exercise, daily. Move naturally. Variety, moderation, consistency and structure.’
Do you? Move, daily? With variety and consistency?
Let’s focus on the variety bit today.
As a set of basic guidelines, at Mother Nature’s Diet we encourage variety, we encourage you to do some cardiovascular exercise, such as running or cycling or swimming, at least a couple of times per week, and some strength training, such as weights, bodyweight calisthenics or similar resistance training, at least a couple of times per week. With a backdrop of walking every day, and a session or two each week of yoga or simple stretching, this makes for a good balanced week – that’s plenty of variety.
If you are currently inactive, or if you don’t follow any kind of specific exercise plan or training regime, then that basic framework described above should be a good goal to aim for, so get started and stick to it.
But if you are already following a training plan, you do already exercise regularly or play a certain sport, then you need to incorporate variety in other ways. We are talking about including more variety in your training from week to week, month to month, year to year, to keep your body and fitness growing and to keep you interested, fresh and making progress.
All too often I meet folks who exercise on a regular basis but they are tired, not getting results, fed up because of a lack of progress. This is so common, it happens to almost everyone, and it can be such a frustrating place. Maybe you run and your 10k or half marathon just doesn’t seem to be getting any faster. Your PB has been stuck for two years and it’s driving you nuts. Or maybe you lift and you just can’t understand why your bench hasn’t improved in over a year, despite the fact you train chest twice a week without fail.
Being stuck is often a result of doing the same thing all the time and not creating any variety in your training. The runner who runs four times per week, three of them are four or five or six milers round local roads, then a longer run might be eight to ten miles on a Sunday morning. Same thing, week after week, month after month, year after year. The body gets used to the demands that are placed on it, and progress slows or stops. I meet runners who train this way for years on end, and are then frustrated that they are not getting any faster.
I always tell them, ‘if you want to get faster, train for running faster!’
You need to add sprint sessions, track sessions, tempo runs, Fartlek or paced runs.
Don’t just add these on top of your existing running, drop some of that ‘steady plodding’ and include the speedwork sessions instead.
Variety, change, new stimulation will bring new growth and new progress.
Or it might be the weight trainer who just can’t seem to make progress on her bench press. She trains chest twice a week, always trains five sets of 10 to 12 reps, but after 18 months of training her PB has only improved by a measles three kilos. It’s the lack of variety again that is likely causing the sticking point. The body gets used to the demands and stops adapting, because the demands have stopped growing.
- If you usually train chest twice a week, try a few weeks training chest five times weekly, go lighter weights and higher volume
- Then try the same thing for legs
- Then come back to your bench press and switch to three weeks of heavier weights and fewer reps
- Build constant variety into your training
- If you normally run three times per week, try running seven days a week for a few weeks
- If you normally run at your steady pace three or four times a week, try adding sprint sessions, cut out some of that steady work
- If you normally cycle 20 miles, twice weekly, try cycling 50 miles once weekly instead
- If your regular routes are quite flat, go find some hills and hit them hard
- Hit those hills for reps
- If you normally swim for a steady 50 minutes twice weekly, try sprint sessions for some change
- If you normally lift 4 or 5 sets of 10 to 12, try a few weeks lighter, for 5 or 6 sets of 20, then switch to a few weeks heavier, at 4 sets of 5
- If you normally train for an hour, four days per week, try 40 minutes on six days per week for a few weeks, just try it
- If you normally work a 3-way body split (chest and triceps, back and biceps, legs and abs) and work each session twice a week, try a change of pattern, try three weeks hitting chest and triceps every other day, lower weight, higher volume, then three on legs and abs, then three weeks on back and biceps, try the variety, see if you change your results
- Try strip downs
- Try drop sets
- Try pre-exhaust
- Try supersets and tri-sets
- Try HiiT training
- If you normally only do long-slow-cardio, try hard and fast, if you normally only do hard and fast, try some long slow cardio
Your body needs constant changes in stimulation to keep pushing change. If your training routine looks ‘about the same’ this year as it did last year, and possibly the year before, then the chances are that your body looks, feels and performs ‘about the same’ as it did last year and the year before. Am I right?
So go on, seek out variety, change how you train…don’t be in this mindset of “no, screw you, I enjoy my long run, that’s my quiet time to be alone” that’s OK…I didn’t say you would never do that long run again, just don’t do it for a month, because your body needs some variety. In a month, you can come back to your long run. I didn’t say don’t bench for 5 sets of 10 ever again, just stop doing it three times a week, do something else for three weeks and then try 5 sets of 10 again and see how it feels.
The great thing about variety, is that as you cycle round all the different ways there are to train and use your body, everything will ‘come around again’ at some point, that’s the nature of it.
Switch up your training – change it this week, this month, then again next month, then change it again the next month, and guess what, yeah you’re getting the hang of this now, change it the next month too.
Keep changing, keep pushing, keep challenging, and you’ll keep growing and progressing.
To your continued progress, and your good health!