Battling Boredom in Your Workout

If you’ve recently identified more excuses than reasons to visit the gym, you may be battling a case of boredom in your exercise routine. Simple, small changes in your mode of exercise, or in its intensity, duration or frequency can help rejuvenate your body and your appetite for exercise.

“People often forget, or are not aware, that a periodical change in your exercise routine can significantly benefit muscle function and ward away what is termed plateauing, or ‘hitting the physiological ceiling’. It also helps prevent the psychologic boredom that many of us experience with regular exercise,” explains Mark A.W. Andrews, Ph.D., Professor of Physiology, Director of the Independent Study Pathway at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, and long-time member of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Dr. Andrews further explains that the human body can adapt quickly to most exercise regimens, so if you’ve maintained the same exact routine over a period of many months, “Your body may become accommodated, and more efficient in completing the workout, so that this specific stress level is no longer enough to generate physiological improvements and you reach a plateau in your performance. A change in your routine is then needed to overcome this, and provide a training effect to improve your physical conditioning.”

“There are three major components to any exercise routine: intensity, duration, and frequency.  For instance, if you no longer feel as exhausted, or sweat as much during your workouts, you may need to increase your intensity,” explains Dr. Andrews. “Lengthening the duration of your workouts, increasing the resistance, repetitions or number of sets of your lifts, or adding or subtracting a day are all possible alterations which may, in the end, aid your progress. It is also important to remember that a good exercise routine should include aerobic, as well as weight or resistance training, and some stretching and flexibility exercises.”

Dr. Andrews says that cross-training, which was pioneered to battle the training boredom of professional athletes, can be helpful to the everyday athlete, “Cross-training is a good means by which to stress your body for continued gains, especially in your aerobic capacity. It can also decrease the number and duration of stress injuries because of its inherent variety.”

Another quick-fix for fighting boredom is a change of scenery. Dr. Andrews explains that if your exercise routine is always indoors, you may just need to step outside, or from the track into pool. “Change your scenery and cross-train regularly to prevent boredom and to optimize physical results,” says Dr. Andrews.

“Now, an excellent idea whenever you need added motivation is to enlist a friend. Take a fast walk, swim or bicycle with friends instead of meeting to eat or drink. Working out with a partner can add a social element to your routine and it also brings some motivation as you won’t tend to skip your workouts when you know someone else is waiting for you,” he explains.

Dr. Andrews adds that if you cannot find a friend to work out with, join a class or club to add the social element. Another option is to set an athletic goal like finishing a race or participating in a sporting tournament of some kind, “Competition and setting goals are two great ways to gain motivation,” he says.

Dr. Andrews also notes that, “Overtraining, leading to ‘physiological staleness’ can result from long-time high intensity training over a number of months. It may result in hormonal and metabolic changes and lead to chronic fatigue, depressed appetite, insomnia, decreased libido, increased muscle soreness and psychological effects including depression, anxiety, or irritability.” Dr. Andrews indicates that any of these changes may be signaling you to alter your workout or even take a week vacation from your training. “A few days off every month or two can prevent overtraining and can rejuvenate and refresh the body for your next month.”

To receive the best results from your exercise routine, Dr. Andrews recommends modifying your workout every month. In addition, he recommends a healthy diet including, “High quality protein, plenty of vegetables, and to maintain a well hydrated sate by drinking at least eight glasses of water per day.”

Preventive medicine, exercise and nutrition are just a few aspects of care in which osteopathic physicians (D.O.’s) are trained. Osteopathic physicians are fully licensed to prescribe medicine and practice in all specialty areas including surgery. D.O.’s are trained to consider the health of the whole person and use their hands to help diagnose and treat their patients.

September 28, 2007
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