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Five Signs it's Time to Change Your Workout

Is it time to change your workout?

Are you still following the same workout routine you had six months ago? If you are, you may not be getting the results you should. Many people fall into a rut when they start exercising. The first 6 to 12 weeks they experience tremendous gains. Workouts are challenging. But then over time, those gains slow and eventually stop. Excitement turns to boredom as your enthusiasm drains away.

Exercise professionals are constantly reminding people to change their workout program every few weeks. But they don't clearly define why you should change, or how to figure out when the best time for change is.

To answer those two questions, you first need to understand the three things that happen when you engage in strength training.

  • The first are the neural changes your body goes through to learn a new exercise. Just like any new experience such as dancing or riding a bike, the more you do it the better you get.

  • As you learn and practice that new movement, the second thing that happens is your strength increases. Some of that increase is simply becoming more confident and some is learning how your body can best move to support the effort.

  • Finally, once your body has made the neural changes to support your movement and you've increased your weights enough to make it challenging, muscle growth starts to happen. For the novice, muscle gains can take from 8-20 weeks.

Many people don't start to see progress until at least six weeks on a program. Changing your workout too early cheats your body out of growth. The more fit you are, the quicker your body adapts and the more frequently you need to change things up. These are the signs it's time to modify your workout.

When strength gains stop, it's time to change. Take a look at your workout sheets. (You're recording all your exercises, right?) If you see that you're hitting a plateau and no longer adding more weight or reps, that's when it's time to do something different.

Have your goals changed? Look at what your program was designed to do. If you wanted to lose weight and now have, it's time to set new goals and change your program accordingly.

If you've become bored or start avoiding your workouts, it's time to change. Exercise isn't something you should do for a few months and then quit. It's an activity you need to continue for life. It's hard to keep a healthy habit if you dread the program you're doing. If you workout in a class, try going solo. If you exercise alone, consider getting a workout buddy, trainer or joining a class. When you look forward to the exercise, you're more likely to keep going back.

Are you getting weaker? Exercise done properly will give you more energy, not run you down. If you're feeling sore all the time or are overly tired, you might be overtraining. Make sure to give the muscle you worked out 48 hours to recover. Muscles are torn down when you workout and they grow when you rest. Exercise programs that don't allow sufficient rest need to be changed.

Have workouts quit raising your heart rate? One of the benefits of getting more fit is your heart rate won't go as high when you move through a program. Wear a heart rate monitor for all your workouts, both strength and cardio. When you notice your heart rate stops going as high as before, it's time to change to something more intense.

When you're ready to change, there are several ways to do it. You can increase your reps, sets, intensity or exercises. Change the frequency of your workouts or how long you rest between sets. Moving from free weights to workout machines (or vice versa) can also stress muscles in new and positive ways. Variations in any of these things individually or in combination may be all your body needs for a boost. When it's time, embrace the change.

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