January 14, 2009

Mixin' It Up! (Yeah, When Hell Freezes Over)

It really should be illegal for me to have a health and fitness blog.

Put down that cupcake, ma'am--
We're taking you downtown.

(Photo: tysoncrosbieedit)

It's not just that I indulge in frequent bathroom humor, pick fights with senior citizens, or put Splenda in my coffee.

What's worse than all that?

It's that even when I do offer sensible health and fitness advice to readers, I sometimes totally blow it off myself.

Like, for example, with strength training. I said, just a few days ago: it's really important to pay attention to form. But do I pay attention to form? No, I do not! And every now and then I injure myself. (Go figure.)

But the worst example is the way I always recommend variety when it comes to exercise. Sure, it's the best way to remotivate when you're in a bit of a slump. It really is smart to try something different!

Yet, I don't.

I do the same things over and over, even when I'm totally bored with them. Because change involves effort. And doing something new might require some research, or force me to confront my own ignorance, or it could make me look like an ass! Much easier to keep things the same.

Are you one of those stubborn sorts who needs to get out of your exercise rut? Need a little kick in the pants to try something new? Well, here are some of the very few tips I can offer for making yourself do something different.

Note: These are Special Slacker Tips, so no proactive energy is required, and there's no need to summon up any (ughh) motivation. They happen... or they don't. Whatever!

1. Hurt Yourself.

This is the best "mix it up" motivator ever. It's the number one reason I have not done the exact same cardio routine my entire life. If I did not have knee issues, I would go running every day. Probably on the same route, at the same speed, for the same distance, wearing the same outfit, listening to the same music, until the end of time.

But damn it, I can't. Well, I still cling to the same tattered workout clothes year after year, because I hate shopping, but as to running? I can only go a couple times a week, on soft surfaces. And only if I ice my knees afterwards and ignore the creaky crunchy noises I make going up or down stairs.

So instead I mix up my cardio by using the elliptical, walking up hills or on the treadmill at 15 percent incline, or, if I'm really desperate, I do the dorkwalking thing. (And some day I may actually take some sort of cardio class again, like I did in the eighties--as soon as my gym decides to hold a class just for me, with a friendly but not-too-perky instructor, using only the music I like, and scheduled for the precise second I walk in the gym. Not too much to ask, is it?)

But here's the bright side to my not getting to run enough: If I could do it as often as I wanted, I would probably grow to loathe running too! However, since I really probably shouldn't be running at all, when I do it feels more like a treat. (OK, "treat" is definitely overstating it. A big bowl of chocolate ice cream, that's a treat).

2. Go to a Crowded or Poorly Maintained Gym.

Have a favorite strength training or cardio exercise that requires a particular piece of equipment? While you may vastly prefer "your" machine to the alternatives, one way to forcibly shove yourself out of your usual routine is see the dreaded "Out Of Service" sign hanging there, sneering at you. Or worse, just witness a parade of other, less deserving gym-goers hogging your machine and not letting you on it!

Here's a tip: almost anything you can do with one piece of equipment, you can do with another. Just do a bit of research, get some professional advice, whine a lot, and voila: variety!

3. Move Somewhere with Crappier or Nicer Weather than You're Accustomed to.

If you're used to trotting or strolling or biking outdoors in a mild climate, and you find yourself living somewhere with 110 degree heatwaves, torrential downpours, subzero temperatures, or 10 foot snowdrifts, you may be surprised to discover that there are Indoor Exercise Spaces known as gyms! There is also stuff you can buy for your own basement, or even shopping malls where it is possible to at least walk around when the weather is unbearable. While these exercise solutions may not be ideal, they give you a whole different set of accessories to buy, things to do, and people and/or walls to stare at.

Conversely, if you live where the weather is crappy, and you've grown used to hopping on indoor machines so you can run, bike, climb, or row, you may be equally shocked to discover that these activities can be accomplished outdoors when the weather doesn't suck! You don't have to wait for a running trail, or wipe it down afterwards like you do a treadmill. Check it out!

4. Humiliate Yourself.

Have a favorite aerobics class at 6pm every night? Always go walking down the same street at the same hour and wave to the same folks? Whatever your routine, just see how flexible you get about changing it if you suffer an unexpected clothing malfunction, a spectacular fall, or an unfortunate release of bodily fluids. New settings and times of day will start to look much more appealing if you want to avoid re-traumatizing yourself every time you work out.

5. Read blogs by people more adventurous than yourself.

If you have a truly inflexible personality like the Crab, then reading others' accounts of their exercise adventures won't be enough to coax you out of your rut. However, when the unexpected happens and you are forced to do something different, it's nice to know ahead of time what fitness options are available.

One awesome resource is Charlotte at The Great Fitness Experiment. She tries a new experiment every month and writes very entertaining posts about her exploits. Or, if you're thinking of trying Fitness DVD's, the Fit Bottomed Girls have excellent reviews and recommendations of all kinds of different types of DVD's.

I can't help noticing that many of you in blogland are way more adventurous than I am. After all, Dr. J recently took up boxing, and learned to punch the speed bag just like a girl. And Geosomin is doing bellydancing! Even the Bag Lady, following MizFit's lead, has become a champion weightlifter.

Perhaps I'll have to take up some more adventurous form of exercise, like, say, extreme base jumping in a wingsuit!

Yeah right.

Anyone else struggle with getting stuck in the same routine?


  1. I would prefer to do the same exercise routine over and over again too; but sadly, I eventually get chased by cujo dogs on my running route and have to change it or have to change routine at the gym because I embarass myself by "pushing too hard" during sit ups...if you know what I mean.

    (Flatulence another motivating change factor, who knew.)

  2. I prefer my routine: I alternate being good and virtuous and working out every day with being pathetic and apathetic and whining about how much I have to do.
    (I've got this routine down pat.)

  3. I love my RUT.
    Right now it works for me (in that if I worked to SHAKE SH*T UP I wouldnt do it. sad but true--too much lifestuff getting in the way).

    you'll have that I guess and I promise to mix it all up in a decade or so.

    I promise!


  4. I'll shake things up every once in a while but I always feel like when I do something new, I always feel like I'm not working as hard as I did when I was doing XYZ workout. Not that that stops me. I just do it on days when I'm feeling lazy but also guilty about skipping out on my workout.

  5. Hahaah! Tip number one was my favorite! That's actually what started my whole Great Fitness Experiment - when I got a stress fracture in my shin and couldn't do anything high impact for 6 weeks. Hilarity and good advice rolled into one:) Thanks crabby!

  6. Excellent post, Crabby!!Thank you!
    Yes I learned to do the speed bag because I wanted to learn a new physical skill that would be fun! There was a short learning curve, and I practiced through it until it became less work and more fun.

    Here's a video of me doing a few more hitting techniques if you would like to see them :-) Thanks to FatFighterTV!


  7. haha this post is hilarious! Change takes work - definitely! It is much easier to continue the same schedule in the same order with the same work outs, especially strength training (for me) "until the end of time" - hehe. It's hard to mix it up - and your suggestions for how to back yourself into a corner to do so are AWESOME (and hilarious as always of course)!

    Thanks for the blog recs, too! :)

  8. I was getting bored with my routine, so I joined a gym that was a little different than most gyms. I love it. They do boxing and kickboxing and I never thought I would love exercising in my life but I do, every class (say boxing) is different, the routine is never the same, I've been going to this one place for a year and I haven't hit a class yet where I say Oh yeah this was just like the class he did two months ago. They are constantly changing it up to keep you on your toes. And boxing is just a fantastic way to get out your frustrations. Anyone living in Southern NH should really check it out. Everyone who goes to the classes are super nice, and its just a really welcoming environment.

  9. Mixing it up is my total workout mantra this winter. Nothing de-motivates me like the cold and dark, and my usual workout routine is running. So the girl who has never been a swimmer is now a swimmer! It's going... um...kind of...yeah...it's great.

    Also, I saw that extreme base jumping video yesterday and WTFFFFFF? My stomach was doing flips the whole time. I watched it like 5 times.

  10. If I ever changed up my routine, I'm sure that the earth would lose its’ moon which could cause terrible damage to the tides and flood most of the east coast of the US. I couldn’t have that on my conscious so I stay with what I know.

  11. i loved my routine (running) until I got injured. Now I've been forced to shake it up a lot, which has resulted in a lot of sore muscles.
    Still miss that running though...(sigh)

  12. I'm all about the rut because the more I have to think about a workout the easier it is for me to talk myself out of that workout. No thinking means actually getting the workout done. But winter so throws a wrench in my routine, ugg, I've got to move south!

  13. I have been trying to change things up on a regular basis, but it does require thinking and planning, and who has time for that? So sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.

  14. Well I joined one of those indoor places (which also happen to be the place of apparently beautiful people who know how to dress fashionably - yes... there is A fashion in gyms.... I of course, am forever about 10 years behind the fashion so I'll probably get my headband to match my shorts when hell freezes over) and got bored over and over. I mean just watching the same people doing the same classes over and over was enough to kill me.

  15. Or you can lose your keys, like I did this morning, and rediscover that you could walk outside.

  16. Approaching 35 weeks pregnant I am finding myself with fewer options these days (still not ready to call it a rut). One option of course, is the option to do nothing. I'm trying NOT to take that route. But napping just sounds so appealing... so do cupcakes.

  17. Please Note: This has NOTHING to do with the lovely post that this comment box is associated with.

    This morning I was listening to an old Jillian Michael's Podcast (I'm behind in a big way). It's from September 28/08 and she mentioned your blog. I am SURE you already know, but I was impressed on your behalf. Especially, because she felt your blogs name was so fitting for herself. Way to get some positive PR.

  18. I sort of change things up - I have to do the classes at the gym because I'll stay the whole time (otherwise I'll play around on the elliptical for about 10 minutes before deciding that's good enough). So I do different classes depending on the day or what looks interesting. I get bored if I don't.

  19. I fear change! My routine used to just involve running. Then it was Spin and running. Then I hurt my back and now it's Spin, running and swimming. Slowly I'm kind of collecting new stuff....

    However I can recommend peer pressure as a good way to switch up your routine - my other half has finally persuaded me to go to dance classes with him tomorrow night!

    TA x

  20. LOL. I get stuck in routines, too. If it wasn't for the blog and being forced to try new things all the time, I might just always do the same thing.

  21. I'll change up my workout slightly, but then fall into a rut of bike/upper body one day, ellipse/lower body the next, then yoga, then repeat.

  22. I bought a bunch of yoga and exercise DVDs (I give myself exercise points for just buying stuff), and have tried them all once, but I keep gravitating to the yoga 20-minute morning workout. It just feels so good...

  23. I have been forced just this week to change things up because my treadmill took a header six feet under. So I've been discovering the (un)joy of fitness DVDs. sigh. I miss my rut.

  24. Oh, I'm a rutter. (Wow, THAT sounds dirty! But it made me laugh, so I'm leaving it. ;D)

    I'm more likely to change my strength training routine than my cardio routine. Mostly because the little shelf on the treadmill is EXACTLY the right height to watch videos on my iPod while I work out. Right now I'm catching up on all the seasons of Lost. (And if my knees hurt that day, that just means it's a dorkwalking day! LOL)

  25. I'm totally flexible about what I do. On one day I do the rower and then a run, on the another I do a run and then the rower. That's felxibility, right?

  26. I have to mix it up...I can't stand monotony. Come to think of it, it's amazing I've stayed married to the same guy as long as I have.

    But seriously...

    When it's gorgeous out, I like to walk outside. Sometimes I attempt running. In colder months, like now, I rely on fitness DVDs, dance classes and other bits of random fitness foolishness to keep it fresh.

    By the way, Crabby, this post made me laugh out loud. Love the "humiliate yourself" tip. I once forgot to lock the seat into position on a machine at the gym and rode it all the way to the floor in front of a bunch of burly guys.

    Now that I look back, I DID change my workout time after that!

  27. Well, the Bag Lady certainly has a lock on the "humiliate yourself" part!!
    Thanks for the mention, Crabby!!

  28. I hate change, which doing exercise would be for me. That rut I have to get out of and get into one that involves exercise. :(

  29. Love the tips! Talk about change of routine...Move to a new country! Everything is so different! The gym is an odd place across the pond. Can't complain about the changes it has forced on me though!

  30. Oh I love a good routine. The way she beckons me in, the way she seduces me with comfort and warmth.

    But then again, I feel naughty and excited with an affair of adventure.

    The key to it all- balance! Thanks for the great post (as usual!)

  31. My problem is I try something neww all out no holding back for too much...and then ache and curse.

    And then there's the whole...um...tooting thing. I run outside and not at a track, just to save myself the embarrassment.

    You never know when you'll find something new you love tho - I tried bellydance a while back and I'm hooked...:)

  32. Rut? I know I've done nothing but walk for cardio for several decades, but I never actually caused a rut!

    Since last spring, when the pollen convinced me to buy a stationary bike instead of just not exercising until the pollen season ended, I have options. In theory, I use the bike when it's really really cold and windy. In reality, not so much.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  33. i'm fairly type a about my routine.. to being down right cranky :) if i dont get the w/o in... I do like trying new stuff tho... i've transitioned from endurance running to endurance riding... a variation on the theme :)

    happy trails

  34. I want #3. Por favor. :D

    It helps to read about other people having fun adventuring. It feels good to switch things up but sometimes I'm not always in the mood for it. Once I have switched things up, though, I'm happy I did!

  35. For what it's worth, I enjoy bathroom humor.

    I changed up my routine last year by ditching the workout tapes and taking classes at the Y. When I told my doctor, she flipped back through my chart and asked if I like it better than doing tapes at home.

    I do. Because it's too easy to skip parts and rest and fast foward at home...I can't do that in a class full of people.

    There are new things that I would like to try, though. The Body Pump class that I'm afraid of...I'd like to be able to do more than five minutes on the eliptical...and I'd like to start running. (But that's a few pounds away.)

  36. I hate exercise and loved this post. But I must admit after a recent surgery where I had to lay on my right side or face down 22 hours a day for 3 weeks gives me a new appreciation for movement.

  37. Crabby, I really relate.

    I just started walking in July. Then, I progressed to jogging. Then, I progressed to running.

    I felt really good, come December, cause I had this nice little training regimen in place. I was running a little further and a little faster everyday.

    I even adjusted to the ice by buying some Yak Trax. I put those babies on the bottom of my trail runners, and, after a couple days of adjustment, it was like they weren't even there.

    And then, we got dumped on (snow--I live in Colorado).

    So instead of running 3.5 miles, I was trudging them in big-ole boots. Occasionally awkwardly jogging.

    And now, we have sunnier days interspersed with snowier days. So, sometimes, I walk/jog/run on snow (which is different than running on dry ground, or even ice), and sometimes I'm back to the boots.

    I feel as if nature has forced me to alter my work-out. And, that, I think, is a good thing, because I'd be highly unlikely to vary so much if left to my own devices.


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