Tuesday, July 20, 2010


If you’re like me, you probably get bored with your routine, but often it is too uncomfortable or time consuming to try to figure something else out. Then you wonder – how often should I change my routine?

I usually see two different situations when it comes to people changing their exercise programs. On one hand, you have individuals who rarely change their programs at all. They go into the gym and repeat the same mundane routine (i.e., same exercises, same reps, same equipment for the same amount of time). These people often look the same after months of training.

Then, there is the other group. These people change their training programs way too often; for some, almost every workout. Ironically, many of these people workout with a trainer. I always tend to get on the fitness topic with these people when they find out what I do, and they'll start to tell me all about their training regimen. The conversation usually goes something like this:

"I love working out. I have a trainer who I see three, four or sometimes even five times per week. He or she is so amazing. Every time I go to the gym, we always do something different."

Now, at this point in my career, I've had this conversation a hundred different times. So basically, I've come up with this analogy to see if I can get them thinking as to why this might not be such a great idea.

"Interesting ... and, what if I was to say to you that every time I see you I am going to try and teach you a different foreign language. (They usually look at me like I'm nuts, but I continue on.) Do you think that you will ever be able to understand, speak or fully master any of the languages that I'm trying to teach you?"

They usually give me a very puzzled look. So, then, I explain to them that when you are training, you are not just training the cardiovascular system and the muscular system, but you are also training (i.e. programming) the nervous system. The nervous system is what actually sends the messages to the muscular system to perform a particular exercise. It's also what helps you refine various exercises and allows you to get stronger and have more control and fluidity when performing these patterns.

According to my training and conversations with world-class strength and endurance coaches, unless you are an elite level athlete, you do not need to change the training program as frequently as many people do.

Of coarse elite athletes will need to change their program about every six workouts, but consider the volume that they do. Back to my analogy, if you spent your full time job learning languages, then you could probably learn them more rapidly than if you just learned them in your recreational time.

I recommend intermediate/advanced level exercisers change their program every three to four weeks. Beginners can stay on the same program even longer—up to six weeks. Now this does not mean you have to do the same thing every day for three weeks. It means you may do cardio on day one, lifting routine A on day two, cardio + yoga day three and, lifting routine B on day four. The idea here is to keep this the same for 3-4 weeks. Then switch it up! If you were running, switch to biking, or run longer or faster

So rather than feeling pressured to do something different every time you workout, or on the other end, maintaining your same workout day-in-day-out for weeks or months, have confidence in knowing when to switch it up and when to keep it the same. Master where you are at, and then move on!

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