When you have been exercising for a while you may realize that your workout is not as hard as it used to be. This is good obviously because it means that your exercise program has been effective and made you fit.
But if you want to increase your fitness or just don’t want to get bored with exercising it may be time to challenge yourself. We take a look at 8 best ways to improve your fitness and shake things up a bit.
Everyone’s fitness journey is different as are the reasons for embarking on it in the first place. But whatever prompts you to exercise and get fit you will need to not just maintain your motivation but increase it if you want to improve your fitness.
You may feel like you have reached a plateau with your fitness and struggle to find the motivation to push yourself beyond that level. Refocusing on the goals that you originally used as motivation can help.
If you want to be able to play with your kids in the park without getting out of breath or completing a marathon is top of your bucket list you can reaffirm your commitment to those goals. Putting a visual reminder of your targets where you will frequently see it also helps.
Keeping that in the forefront of your mind can help you to do a few more reps, lift a heavier weight or swim another lap of the pool. Remember why you are doing this, and it can provide renewed motivation every time you exercise.
Set Fitness Goals
One of the most important things you can do to improve your fitness is to set yourself definitive goals. Deciding what it is you want to achieve from your exercise regime gives you something to aim for.
If you want to be able to run 5 miles or lift over 200 pounds then this is your fitness goal. Once you have selected your goal you can begin to work towards it. This will involve checking that the exercises you are doing will actually help you reach your target.
Make sure you are employing the right techniques and choosing the correct exercises to reach your fitness goal. If you want to lift over 200 pounds then working on your rowing technique isn’t really going to help you.
This may be the right time to employ a personal trainer. They can help to tweak your technique or adjust your plan so that you are better positioned to meet your goals and improve your fitness.
When you have set your fitness target you should keep track of your progress. This will help you ascertain if what you are doing is having the desired effect. If not then you can rethink and readjust your exercise plan. If it is working it will motivate you to train even harder.
What you measure and how you record it will depend on your fitness goals. You could track your run times over a set distance or record the weights you are lifting.
These records can give you important insight into what is working and what isn’t. It can help you change your technique, try something new or admit you need to consult a professional fitness trainer.
The problem with measuring your own progress is that you may not be as honest with yourself as a professional would be. You are also likely to cut yourself slack for a slower run or a few extra pounds on the scales. Self monitoring is only as effective as you make it.
Adapt Your Exercises To You
In order to improve your fitness you will need to adapt your exercises so that you are working that much harder. Maintaining the status quo with your fitness regime will keep you at a certain level but only increasing the difficulty will actually improve your fitness.
In strength training this is known as progressive overload. It refers to gradually increasing the weights that you are lifting as your body becomes accustomed to lifting them.
You know this is working if the weight you are lifting becomes uncomfortable near the end of each set. This is what will increase your muscle strength and mass. This concept also works with endurance training and flexibility.
Pushing yourself to do an extra half mile during a run will get you more out of breath but as you consistently do that little bit extra you will find it getting easier. This is a measure of improvement.
Keep monitoring how you are adapting your exercise plan and note if it is working to get you to your goal.
Know Your Limits
Although you should be pushing yourself to improve your fitness you need to be mindful of not going too far too fast. Increasing your run by half a mile will over time help you to become fitter but if you try to ramp it up to a mile you may end up doing yourself harm.
Gradual but consistent increments in the difficulty of your workout will help you prevent any injuries. Pushing yourself a little is important but don’t get impatient or overconfident as that can lead to injuries which can halt your exercise routine completely.
By going too far too fast you risk pulling muscles or causing other injuries. Overtraining is a real possibility so make sure that you are not increasing the duration, intensity or length of workouts too quickly.
There are potential hidden injuries that can occur if you overtrain. Skeletal muscle rupture is known as rhabdomyolysis. The contents of the cells enter the bloodstream and proteins such as myoglobin can block the kidney filtration system which can be serious.
Mix It Up
Even if your goal is to take part in a marathon, adding different types of exercise to your fitness plan is recommended. A well rounded regime is likely to be more effective and strength, flexibility and coordination are all very important and transferable skills.
Doing the same kind of training over and over again can also lead to boredom which can do serious damage to your motivation. If you want to improve your fitness it is vital that you not only maintain your motivation but also as we mentioned, increase it.
Using different training methods will also target different areas of fitness which can only benefit you overall. Add some stretching, flexibility, posture and balance exercises to any fitness training plan, and you will be pleasantly surprised at the results.
High Intensity Interval Training
High intensity interval training or HIIT is a very effective form of aerobic exercise and ideal for improving fitness. Studies have shown that HIIT can help you achieve your fitness goals a lot faster than regular aerobic training.
Interval training increases your calorie burning capacity even when you’re finished with your workout. It will rapidly improve your aerobic fitness as well as your stamina and endurance.
If you want to improve your fitness level in a short period of time then high intensity interval training is probably the best way to do it.
It does all the same things that regular aerobic exercise does, increasing strength and endurance, as well as decreasing body fat. However, it does these things in a much shorter time frame.
Seek advice from a professional trainer before starting a HIIT regime to make sure it is suitable for you and your fitness goals.
Strength training is something that is often neglected by those who want to improve their fitness. But building muscle is an essential part of an exercise program.
Working out all the major muscle groups will contribute to your general fitness level and help improve your stamina. Increased muscle mass also burns more calories even when at rest. This is a process called excess post exercise oxygen consumption.
When you engage in strength training your body requires more energy based on how much energy you are exerting, meaning the harder you work, the more energy is needed. This effect can be amplified by putting more energy into the workout.
Not only does your body burn more calories as you work out but also after you have finished exercising while your body is recovering to a resting state. This post exercise effect also helps you to lose more weight than regular aerobic exercise.
With strength training your metabolism stays active after exercise for much longer than regular aerobic exercise. This can help to improve your fitness level so consider adding lifting to your workout regime.
Your fitness level is a personal thing, but you should always be looking to improve.
Pushing yourself gradually beyond what you can accomplish now will help you to improve your fitness level without the risk of injury. While increasing your motivation will give you the mental strength to move forward with your training program.
Setting goals, monitoring your progress while incorporating different types of training will all benefit you positively too.