In trying to think up simple answers to questions like “How do I increase my fitness?”, or “How do I get fit in the first place?”, I boiled it down to 4 points: Novelty, Intensity, Consistency, and Enjoyment (NICE!) You need to keep doing new things, work out at a challenging intensity, exercise regularly over time, and have fun!
Here’s the elaborated version.
Novelty: In order to make progress, you need to keep your muscles guessing (sometimes called “muscle confusion”). This means you need to switch up your workouts and try new activities, rather than doing the same routine with the same weights at the gym, or running the same path for the same distance every morning. The key here is to find a balance between working on improving certain exercises (meaning you’ll need to do the same exercises for a period of time) and changing them for further fitness development.
Switch up your workouts: There are countless ways you can change what you’re already doing. Run longer or faster, lift heavier weights for fewer reps or lighter weights for more reps, or swim sets of lengths at the pool at different paces. For example, once you can do a certain weight training exercise for 12-15 reps, it’s time to increase the weight.
Try new activities: Not only do you need to keep altering existing exercises, but you need to vary the types of exercises you do in order to develop well-rounded fitness, prevent injury, and not bore yourself to death. Competitive swimmer? Try rock climbing or a weight training workout. Gym rat? Try an indoor cycling class (a.k.a. spin class). One of the reasons triathletes have relatively low injury rates compared to athletes from other disciplines is that they focus on three different sports, rather than just one, leaving time for muscle recovery between running, cycling, and swimming workouts.
Intensity: This one’s a bit tricky, and sometimes takes a lot of trial and error and/or help from a fitness professional. Basically, you need to challenge yourself to get results (surprise, right?!), without injuring yourself. Lifting 3-pound weights at the gym is not going to get you the lean and toned physique you want. Going for a 10 minute stroll every day is not going to get rid of those last 10 pounds. You have to work hard for what you want!
Consistency: You need to be absolutely consistent with your fitness plan, whether it’s working out three days a week or six days a week. Creating a routine is extremely important for making healthy living habits stick over the long term. You also need to be consistent with healthy eating. Robert Kennedy, publisher of fitness magazines including Oxygen, says, “The size and shape of your waistline is dictated by those 18 inches between your plate and your mouth”. Stick to a workout schedule, stick to your healthy diet, be patient and persistent, and results will follow.
Enjoyment: If you’re not enjoying your workouts, it’s not likely you’re going to keep at them for very long. It’s a pretty obvious point, but one I think often gets forgotten, especially by us personal trainer types. You’re much more likely to stick to active living over the long term if you find an activity you like, so try out a whole bunch! There’s no reason you should feel chained to the gym. Martial arts, racquet sports, swimming, snow sports, power lifting, yoga… you name it. Have fun and stay fit!
Karina is a self-described fitness nut!