By Brittanie McDonald
DHAC Exercise Physiologist
Variety is the spice of life! How often do we hear or say this when it comes to our choices in food, clothing and daily activities? We are always mixing up our weekend festivities, trying new foods, and searching for the hottest new trends, all in the attempt to stake off boredom and keep life interesting.
Yet day in and day out, I walk around the fitness center and I see a lot of the same people on the SAME machines! Shouldn’t that same mantra apply to our cardio workouts? We have one of the largest selections of cardiovascular equipment around and yet the runners will only run and the bikers only bike. Don’t get me wrong, I have my favorites too, but don’t forget to experience a little change! There are so many benefits to switching it up!
Benefit #1: It keeps your body guessing!
When sticking with just one form of cardio for your workouts, it naturally becomes easier with time. Not only are you increasing your cardiovascular endurance and stamina, but the muscles you use to perform that particular motion, be it pedaling, running, or walking, become more efficient. By switching up your choice of cardiovascular machines, you are causing muscle confusion throughout your body. Whether you are activating new muscle groups, or using the same ones in a different manner, they are less efficient and therefore, forced to work harder to complete the exercise. Come watch me try a half hour spin class and you will see what I mean! OUCH!
Benefit #2: Gives your joints a break
As a runner, I am a firm believer in using cross training regularly. At Northeastern University, our coach would have us take one or two days a week off of running on the road to cross train. This was done not only to help us perform better through muscle confusion, but to give our knees, hips and shins a break from the constant impact they faced while running in the city. Our days of cross training would consist of using the upright bike, elliptical, arc trainer, or pool running, all low impact. Cardio is generally high repetitions of one particular motion and can cause wear and tear on our joints, yes even the low impact machines. Change it up and spare your knees and hips!
Benefit #3: Active Recovery = Mental Recovery
Whether these different forms of cardio were performed at a higher or lower intensity, we always saw them as a day of active recovery, not only for our joints but also as a mental recovery from running everyday. As with strength training, having variety in your cardio workout keeps things interesting, especially if you find cardio painfully boring! Whenever a member tells me they hate cardio, I’ll give them 3 or 4 different machines and tell them to try 5-10 minutes on each machine when they come in. Add all that time together and you have 20-40 minutes of cardio for each visit, yet you’re not stuck on the same machine.
Don’t be afraid of change, change is good! And if you need some suggestions, always feel free to ask!