By JENNY PRUITT CLEVELAND
This won’t be the first time I contradict myself. And it won’t be the first time I don’t like my own advice.
I said not too long ago to think of your workout as a ritual, something that comes so naturally it’s secondhand. Like nudging the fridge closed with your foot after grabbing the milk.
But it’s time to use the other foot to nudge the fridge door. It’s gonna feel weird, but trust me: You’re fixing a problem.
The problem? Your body gets used to your routine. “Oh, this is what you want from me. Okay, you got it. Nothing more.” That’s what your body says after about six weeks of a new exercise. Your muscles adapt to the particular movements you’re requiring them to accomplish; they absorb the movement’s memory to become as efficient as possible.
Increased efficiency is a good thing. It’s when your body settles into saying “nothing more” that it’s your turn to talk back, “Oh, you think so?” Then throw it a new stimulus or two.
Try a new exercise altogether every two or three months.
Mix up the sets, reps and loads of the exercises you’re already doing.
Build a repertoire of exercise routines you can cycle through.
This is the advice I don’t do so well. I like the mindlessness of a workout routine that’s secondhand. And I like being good at what I do.
It’s not surprising that my current exercise routine doesn’t include a ball of any type. Baseballs, volleyballs, footballs, basketballs—I’m lousy with all of them. Imagine when my limbs hadn’t adjusted to the latest growth spurt. (Picture a baby giraffe running.) My dad knew ball sports would never be a serious interest to me, but he wanted me to know the basics of how to throw and catch. He swatted mosquitos, ran his shirt sleeve across his sweaty brow, and chased down errant balls as long as it took for my muscles to absorb as much memory as they could (which equated to little more than not shutting my eyes when the ball was airborne).
Last week at the gym, I watched a girl in the mirror next to me squat and catch a medicine ball that she tossed up and off the wall in front of her. Meanwhile, I did the weight routine I’ve been doing for the past six months.
So, today I’m going to throw in a new stimulus—a medicine ball. I won’t be good at it. At least at first.
How will you mix it up today?
Jenny Pruitt Cleveland is a Content Crafter in Nashville, Tenn. She swims, bikes, and runs a lot. In former lives she’s been a middle school teacher, magazine reporter and editor, cycling tour guide, and underwater photographer.