Fitness Boredom: Solutions to the Seven-Year Itch

By Martha Michaels

Running Towards your Goals

Do you ever feel like the honeymoon phase is over between you and your fitness regimen? Sometimes it just becomes so routine that you lose the desire to stay with it, even if you know it’ll make you stronger.

Commitment issues aside, there’s nothing wrong with incorporating new ideas to recapture the passion you used to have for your workout.

Eccentric Contractions

The term may remind you of your Auntie Mame, but what “eccentric” refers to here is a move that creates unusual bed partners -- contraction and lengthening.

Negative motion” is another name for it -- contracting a muscle while at the same time lengthening it, which is achieved when you lower a dumbbell very slowly.

What we’re used to doing is “concentric contractions” in which the muscle is shortened, or “isometric contractions,” in which the length stays the same, says an article in Pain Science. In a sense, it’s tricking your muscles into performing an unusual combination.

“Even if no one knows how it works, it’s easy to understand why you need eccentric contraction,” the article says. “We regularly need to control, slow-down the lengthening of a muscle, a ‘braking’ contraction.”

In racquet sports, for example, you use eccentric contraction in your extensor muscle group, which is in the back of your forearm. When you swing a heavy tennis racket, your wrist can become injured if it flexes over and over. But instead, those muscles resist and stabilize your wrist. While your hand and wrist bend back to a degree, the action is limited and controlled.

Fartlek

Are you bored with routine running? Triathlete.com suggests that runners use the less predictable and less structured fartlek technique, which is an interval training method involving a variation in your pace. Swedish for “speed play,” one of the technique’s benefits is that changes in intensity teach your body to recover more quickly.

In less than an hour you can employ a fartlek workout, such as:

  • Stoplights - As the name implies, there are three speeds -- red, yellow and green for easy, moderate and fast/hard -- which you employ in a pattern. The following is a sample workout formula you can follow: 30 seconds hard, 90 seconds easy, 60 seconds moderate, 60 seconds easy, 90 seconds hard, three minutes easy. Then repeat.
  • Give me five - For the first five minutes you run at a comfortable pace. Then you increase your speed for one minute. Drop to a comfortable speed again until the 10-minute mark. Do this every five minutes throughout your run.
  • For the dogs - Athletes in Albany, N.Y., go to a local dog park to practice fartlek. “They use passing the dogs as a flag to speed up or recover,” says Albany coach Kristen Hislop. “The smaller the dog, the faster they have to go!”
  • Mailboxes - Using mailboxes as markers, set goals to run toward them. For instance, run hard to the third mailbox, then recover, walking toward two of them, then run hard for three, and recover for two.

MetCon

A word combination for metabolic conditioning, MetCon is a type of workout employing high-intensity cardio and strength-training moves. It often includes full-body exercises such as push-ups, squats and burpees.

Men’s Journal singles out metabolic conditioning as a key to a good workout, defining it as “structured patterns of work and rest periods to elicit a desired response from the body.” It can be a complex circuit where the athlete uses a medicine ball, ropes and kettlebells, or it may involve simple intervals, depending on the trainer. You can choose which level best meets your fitness goals.

MetCon is based on three pathways of metabolism. The creatine phosphate pathway is the fastest way to get energy, what your body uses during power exercises that last 10 seconds or less. The glycolytic pathway provides energy for one to four minutes of activities such as weightlifting or mid-distance running. And the long-duration system is aerobic and continues for many hours of moderately intense work.

Lateral Band Walk

There are many routine fitness moves that protect your joints and small muscles, according to an injury prevention article in Men’s Journal. The lateral band walk strengthens the hip joint, affecting the abductor muscles, which keep the knees aligned and prevent them from being torqued or tearing the tendons.

You step into the band, leaving it around your legs where it provides resistance. Then you pull back into a squat and walk sideways, always keeping your legs apart and toes forward. Do a set of 10 in both directions.

The Easiest Workout

Another routine can help save your joints also: regular visits to a chiropractor. By allowing an expert to examine your spine and other joints, you can become aware of changes in joint health and receive necessary treatment for injuries such as pain in the shins or quadriceps caused by new running techniques.

Exercises are helpful, but chiropractic care is a preventive measure that means you face fewer instances of pain from overuse and muscle strain. Regular visits for alignment give you a safer start when beginning a new workout program.

Seek out a chiropractor when your body is suffering from DOMS, or “delayed onset muscle soreness,” which is the pain you can experience from a new or intense workout regimen. Your treatment may include ice application or heat to the area and your chiropractor may suggest a period of rest, so any microscopic damage to muscle fibers can heal completely before returning to your fitness program.

Sometimes you need a trial separation from your workout routine in order to find new techniques to inspire you. Just changing it up can add newfound excitement and get you closer to the goal -- to bring you to a point where you love your fitness program again.

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