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Knowing when to switch it up!

Getting started in a fitness program is the first step towards improving your physical and mental health but being conscious of not performing the same routine over and over again is an important obstacle for you to avoid.

Fitness programs are a necessity to help you to achieve all your goals and targets but the ability to hit these comes with a need to vary the intensity and exercises you are performing. A good PT will give you a varied routine hitting all the important muscles and aerobic/strength systems that will help you succeed in your bid to achieve your goals.

So if your aim is weight loss you will be needing cardio exercises whether its high impact activities such as running or low impact such as cycling/indoor rowing all of these will tap into your fat-burning zones depending on what intensity you are using. A great way to find out your aerobic zones so you can train in different intensities is to find out your max hr and work at a % of this during your workout.

The easiest way of finding your max hr is to take the figure of 220 and subtract your age from it. It’s quite a generalised way of doing it and if your more interested in fitness and the different training zones there are other ways available. After you’ve found your max hr you need to find your resting hr - the best time to take this is just after waking when most relaxed. After you have this figure calculate your heart rate reserve (HRR) by subtracting your resting heart rate from your maximum heart rate. Your HRR is your resting heart rate subtracted from your maximum heart rate. Multiply your HRR by 0.7 (70 percent). Add your resting heart rate to this number. Multiply your HRR by 0.85 (85 percent). Add your resting heart rate to this number. These two numbers are your training zone heart rates for vigorous intensity exercise. Your heart rate during exercise should be between these two numbers but obviously this depends on the intensity you are wanting, I would class the intensity whilst working between these as mid-high. Anything above would be classed as high intensity and these sorts of sessions should be done in shorter time lengths and are sometimes are classed as HIIT workouts.

So you’ve sorted out your zones for your cardio now it's the strength side of your programs. It’s incredibly easy to plateau on a strength plan and I would always advocate changing it around every 6-12 weeks if your not seeing any progress. Lots of people just plod on doing the same old weight exercises and in the process of doing the same old routine time and time again their muscles start to guess what they are going to do and if the individual is not using the ‘overload principle’ which means continually challenging his/herself as their bodies get used to their existing workouts/programs then all their work in the gym will be fruitless. So to get the best out of your programs there has to be an increase of intensity regularly so that the adaptations can be made by your muscles to increase their strength and size whilst in a period of recovery after your workout has finished. In my sessions I increase my reps in a set , then the sets before any weight increments are made, never increase reps/weight at the same time, as that could increase the risk of injury through fatigue and poor form. Another tip is to increase the load in small increments this will help decrease the muscle soreness you may get in the 48 hours after a weight session, sometimes it’s nice to be reminded that you’ve worked hard but trying to get up a flight of stairs after a particular heavy squat day is torture! If you increase the weight by around 2.5kg you will feel much better the day (or two) after, believe me that’s a tip worth remembering!

As with barbell and freeweight programs and changing them frequently you can do similar if you are training using your bodyweight or even the TRX suspension trainer, you may not be adding weight as these methods rely on your actual bodyweight as the resistance but you can certainly change the intensity by increasing, reps, sets and time too. You can also add in different exercises that are working the same muscle but they maybe working other muscles to such as the push-up on the TRX when you’ve mastered this the next exercise is the Atomic push-up which had the pushup and crunch incorporated into it so you have switched up the intensity by making the exercise harder.

So nextime your looking at your session program for the week ahead ask yourself if you think you need to switch it up, take a look at your targets and goals - have they changed? If so does this mean the exercises need to change as well as the intensity? Always try to challenge yourself and keep consistent if you do both of these I have no doubt you will keep on hitting all your targets and goals whether its changing your body shape, improving your physical and mental health or making sure your quality of life in the present and future is the best it can be!

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