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Change is good

Last week as I was driving through Truckee, I stopped for a cup of coffee. In the cafe, I ran across an old friend who I had not seen in a while. After some small talk, I could not help but notice what great shape he was in since I had seen him last. Of course, I asked him what he had been doing to get such great results. What he said is exactly what I have told so many members at our clubs. His answer was, “I changed things up.”

Far too many exercisers get stuck in a rut because they never vary their exercise routine. The human body gets more efficient at doing the things it does all the time. When challenged with new stimuli, the body is forced to adapt.

So what exactly did my friend change to get such good results? He made three very simple changes that, when applied consistently, are surprisingly effective.



Research shows that periods of higher intensity cardiovascular activity followed by lower intensity activity is much more effective at burning fat than steady state cardiovascular workouts. In the exercise and sports training world, this is called interval training. Because you are alternating the intensity levels, you are able to do more work in the same time period thereby improving your fitness and burning more calories. It does not matter what kind of cardiovascular activity you choose as long as you are able to alternate the intensity level. Of course, if there’s a reason why more intense exercise may not be safe for you, then consult your physician to determine if these suggestions are appropriate.

Many exercisers don’t know when to add weight to their strength workouts. By safely increasing the amount of weight you are lifting, you will increase your muscular strength and speed up your metabolism. A good rule of thumb is that if you can complete 3 more repetitions than you planned, then you should probably increase the weight you are lifting. For example, if you plan to lift a certain weight 12 times (repetitions) and you can lift it 15 times then consider increasing the weight.




The next question is, “How much weight should I now lift?” If your goal is to lift the weight 12 times then ad just enough weight until you can only complete 12 repetitions. This may take a little trial and error. After a couple of attempts with different weights, you will figure out the correct weight to lift.

Exercise machines at health clubs revolutionized how people worked out by letting machines guide the exerciser through the proper movement. This made things simpler for beginners and machines are still an important part of a total exercise program.

What are missing from many people’s routines are exercises that force a person to move a weight that is not guided by a machine. Yes, I am talking about free weights and functional movements. But using free weights alone does not necessarily make an exercise functional.

Functional exercises are multi-joint movements that are generally done standing up as opposed to sitting or lying down. These kinds of exercises recruit more muscles to work together as a team which is closely related to how we move during everyday activities.

Functional movements or full body exercises develop strength faster and burn far more calories than isolation exercises. In next week’s column, I will provide a sample cardiovascular interval and a functional strength routine that you can do at home or in the gym.

Remember, change is good. Use the three changes above and see your results rapidly improve. If you have any questions about this article or other issues please feel free to drop me a line.

Mike Carville is a NASM/RKC Certified Personal Trainer and co-owner of South Yuba Club in Nevada City (www.southyubaclub.com) and Monster Gym in Grass Valley (www.monstergyms.com). He has worked in the fitness and sports industry for 15 years and specializes in programming for new exercisers, weight loss/toning and athletic training. Mike is available for questions and speaking engagements via e-mail at: mikec@southyubaclub.com.


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