[Week 9 of 12 Weeks to a Healthy New Year]
We all need a balance of habit and spontaneity in our lives and workouts. Habits tend to keep us going, but having some change helps keep things fresh. Here are 9 ways to refresh your workout:
1. Take a rest period. If you have been working out regularly for a few months your body would probably benefit a lot from time of more complete recovery. If you are feeling particularly worn out, this may be the reason. Exactly how long you need to rest will depend on things like how quickly you have been ramping up your goals, if you have been in a major physical competition or race, or if there are other stressors such as sickness.
It doesn’t even have to be a complete rest to be helpful. Try to take a break from the most intense exercises. Another way to rest is to cut back significantly on how much or how often. This will still keep the blood flowing, but give the body a lot more rest.
2. Find new locations. New scenery, less well known twists and turns, less predictable challenges. All of these things, if not too overwhelming, can help keep you pleasantly more alert. It will also likely result in different muscle use patterns that just feel fresher.
Don’t forget to take advantage of travel to find new places to run. Whether you are visiting family, traveling for business, or on vacation, there are so many places that are best discovered by foot or bike. We have discovered unique places to hike in as unlikely spots as Palm Springs, where there are trails through some oases. Make it a habit to pack basic gear, but also check out equipment rentals where you go.
And there is always the option of traveling for the main purpose of enjoying an activity in new location. It doesn’t have to be for an event. I have met one person who traveled to a location just to say he swam a significant distance in a certain lake.
3. Add variety to your goals. For instance, if you have been running long and slow a lot, mix in more speed workouts. Possibly finally sign up for an event or race that you have been dreaming. Maybe you want to try an off-the-wall goal like running one mile every day for a year or traveling famous routes around the world barefoot.
I just joined Pokemon-Go as a way to have fun with one of my grandsons. I know I’m supposed to be careful of walking off cliffs, but I could try covering a certain distance every weekend looking for Pokemon. It has been explained to me that the Pokemon app does not keep good track of distance, so I would have to use another app, like Strava at the same time. A lot of people now have Fitbits that would do that for them.
4. Try new activities. This could include totally new activities or a new version of what you have been doing. If you have attending a certain aerobics class, try a new one. If you have been taking swing dance classes, add ballroom to your repertoire. Or belly dancing?
Think of activities that sound exhilarating. Maybe they are a bit out of your comfort zone because you are afraid you might feel inept, but don’t let that stop you. Everyone has to start someplace. Don’t let unnecessary pride keep you from trying something that you may end up really liking. You don’t have to begin with extremes to try it. For example, if you have an interest in rock climbing, just find a gym with a beginners wall.
5. Join a virtual group. Virtual groups allow you to connect with people world wide, but also usually have ways to find people in your local community with similar interests. Local connections can lead to new friendships or just be a way to find new routes. Someone from another part of the world might inspire travel or just be a fun source of mutual likes.
Sometimes virtual groups have races or goals that can be fun to join in. I recently joined a barefoot running group through Strava. It is inspiring to see people log barefoot runs all over the world.
6. Join a local group. It is fairly easy to search online for local groups that meet up. It might be once in a while, or for a race, or for coaching. Just attending a few local races and talking to people can be useful.
Specialty shops can be a good place to ask about local groups, especially if you want a more personal evaluation. It might also get you an introduction that helps break the ice.
7. Upgrade your gear. This includes everything from clothes to water bottles to technology. There is a reason for the advice of “dress for the job you want.” How you dress affects you both physically and mentally. Good quality gear lets your body do the job you are trying to do. Fun gear makes you happy. Nice looking gear builds confidence. Gear can’t take the place of good habits, and you can certainly find the best bang for your buck, but don’t feel guilty for investing in gear that motivates you.
8. Read inspiring and encouraging books. There are books about people who have beat the odds, people who just love what they do, and people who have adventures associated with their sports. Read them without comparing yourself, but with seeing what might be possible in your life right now.
Also find coaching type books whose authors have a good mix of wisdom, experience, and humility. Here is a list of some of my favorite books:
80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower, Matt Fitzgerald
Running with the Kenyans, Adharanand Finn
What Makes Olga Run: The Mystery of the 90 Something Track Star, Bruce Grierson
Once a Runner, John L. Parker, Jr.
and, of course, my book: Why Does Grandma Run Barefoot?, Laura Blodgett
9. Evaluate your form and technique. This will be a somewhat natural result of reading books. We all need reminders of things that help us avoid injury and make the best use of our physical attributes. Again, this doesn’t mean comparing yourself to someone who is paid to workout several hours a day or who is many years younger. However, there are basics that help us all.
If you have had some other ideas for refreshing your workout, please feel free to share them in the comments!