It all starts innocently enough. You hear people talking about it at work, perhaps a close friend is a regular, and you become curious, slightly intrigued… you decide it’s time you go for yourself to see what all the fuss is about. You finally get your nerve up, maybe even deciding to walk in with a friend - you take the class. And then it happens. It hits you just like a scene out of a John Hughes film. The energy is intoxicating, the lights are just right, the instructor has that certain something, the music is loud and perfect, and you are sweating your heart out to every beat. The hour goes by much too fast, and there you are taking that final exhale, your body exhausted, every muscle feeling satisfied, worked, and physically spent, yet mentally you are only thinking about one thing - when you can come back and do it all over again. You’re in love.
The honeymoon phase of any workout is always particularly wonderful, because everything is new, and your body is getting results in ways it perhaps hasn't from it’s previous er, partners. You find yourself going more and more, because you can't get enough of it. You start only seeing this one workout, eschewing all others because you just can’t imagine any of them measuring up to what you are getting from this one. You may even meet new friends at the new place. You try and convert everyone you know to try this new workout, because it rocks your world, and you want them to experience it too.
This euphoria may go on for weeks, months, perhaps even years. Sooner or later, however, in the cold light of day, something may just not be the same as it was. It could be for a number of reasons. Maybe you are starting to see diminishing results with the same, or even increased effort? Perhaps you are getting bored of the same old routine? Or maybe, in the most toxic of cases, you have even suffered an injury, and yet you still keep going back, not allowing it to heal, because you simply cannot imagine your life without it. In fact, you don’t know what else you would even do.
Just for the record, I am all for falling head over heels in love with my workouts. I believe my time is precious, and I don’t waste it on what I don’t enjoy, or don’t think makes me stronger in some way. I firmly believe some of the most successful people I have seen are such, because they become totally obsessed about their craft. However, there comes a time when everyone may need to take a break, take a rest, or even change things up a bit.
If you keep using your body in the same way over and over again, it gets used to the work. Your body is smart; it realizes what it has to do, and does it. The first couple of times you learn a new move, your brain is wrapping itself around the exercise. Then something beautiful called muscle memory kicks in, the “been there done that” part of our body’s brain takes over, and we become better. There is a reason why your third set has better form than your first set. Muscle memory is great, as it lays a physical blueprint for all of our necessary functional moment: squats, lunges, sit ups, push ups, proper running technique, and so on. However, when our body becomes too “bored” with the same exercises, we need to "shock" it by doing something completely different, moving ourselves and utilizing our bodies in a new way, where we again see real benefits and noticeable results.
Doing some form of “cross training” on a weekly basis is a wonderful way to stay fresh, keep ourselves current, and importantly, avoid overuse of muscles, therefore staving off injury. By mixing it up, we keep our muscles “on their toes”. They don't get too used to the same repetitive routine. For example, perhaps you compliment your running with lifting, and throw in boxing twice a week. Add a stretch class or yoga class. I am not suggesting you abandon the love of your life — but sometimes you never know how much more you can gain, and how much happier your body will be, unless you allow yourself to experience new workouts. Even if you do end up taking a temporary break and going back to your true love, you come back stronger in ways you couldn’t have, had you kept doing the same old same old.
In order for fitness to really work its magic, you need variety. Yes, if you are lucky enough to find that one true love that works for you, hold onto it, nurture it, enjoy it, but not at the expense of all else. Stay open to other workouts. Follow your heart, but take your brain with you.