If you are anything like I am, I bet you have a favorite workout program or fitness routine. Whether you could run all day every day or you could do Beachbody’s Insanity program all year long, I just have a sneaking suspicion you do in fact have “the one.” The exercise that just never seems to wear on your boredom factor. It might be that your particular favorite comes more naturally to you. If it is a home fitness DVD, it may be full of your favorite fitness tunes. In any case, you just LOVE that workout. You live for the workout. Without serious intervention, you would never ever leave your soulmate workout. Even if it is the biggest calorie burning, bicep building and booty sculpting workout program available, you may find yourself waking up one day only to find the miracle 6 pack cure is now leaving you loose in the cage.
Why do you need to change your fitness focus if you are very content to love the one you are with?
The reason that your go-to program needs to have a time out now and then has to do with a training principle called, “periodization.” Periodization is the philosophy of dividing training programs for fitness into phases or cycles that rotate over a given period of time. An example of periodization would be to train heavily on balance and stabilization training for 4 weeks before focusing on muscular endurance the following 4 weeks. Depending on your goals, you may choose to then focus on hypertrophy (increasing muscle size) for 4 weeks before returning to the first phase of balance and stabilization.
Other ways you can create distinct cycles or phases in a fitness program include changing the number of sets or repetitions performed during a workout, changing the tempo of each exercise (which changes the time under which a muscle is held at tension) or adjusting the rest time in between exercises.
The possibilities for creating changes in programs seem endless!
Why does periodization matter?
There are two main reasons that an athlete or someone interested in maintaining or improving general fitness levels should create an overall fitness program that is divided into periods or phases of focus:
The first reason is that your body will eventually adapt to the program that you are currently doing. Once your body does adapt, the program is no longer as effective as it once was. Your body requires less effort to achieve the same results, and if left unchanged, progress will come to a grinding halt. Do you remember the first time you wanted to do a bicep curl for 15 reps? You may have only been able to do that with 8 lbs-and you struggled on the last 3 reps. One day, however, you could do 15 reps and more with that same 8 lbs. Simply put, your body adapted and it no longer required the same effort to get the job done.
The second reason is to prevent injury that can result from repetitive movement. Changes in the program create changes the muscular focus. If you are training for a race, your focus is going to be several days of running each week. After the race is complete, the muscles used for running need a recovery period. During this time your training can emphasize those muscles not stressed during the race training. Giving the racing muscles a rest will help prevent injury while the time spent training other muscles will create a better overall fitness foundation.
Leaving your favorite program periodically will actually create a stronger and better you so you are able to return to your favorite training more often and with less down time.
That sounds like a WIN to me!