The Three Cs — Change, Challenge and Confuse Your Body

Human beings are creatures of habit. We shop for the same groceries, eat the same foods, wear the same outfits and most certainly drive the same route to work. Given our hectic lives we are often on autopilot. Here’s one for the books — my husband and I often carpool to our jobs. I drop him off on my way to work. On one such day I called him to tell him I was on my way to pick him up to go home, and thirty minutes later, I turned down my street without my husband!!

Our bodies are no different. The human body has this amazing ability to adapt to anything at all. You do something enough times and you’ll get the hang of it, regardless of the fact that you’ve never done it before. It’s for this reason (and to stave off boredom) that it is vital that you constantly change your workout routine.

If you’ve wondered why you’re not seeing much result, even though you diligently run on your treadmill for an hour each day, five days a week, it’s probably because you’ve been doing it for months without changing anything. In fact, you probably like doing it because you hardly break a sweat and it’s easy and doesn’t require any thought.

Well, your muscles have memory and have ‘memorized’ the workout and now output less effort to accomplish the task, which translates to less calories burned. And remember, if it’s easy and you’re not breaking a sweat, (the more physically fit you are, the more you sweat during exercise) you’re not really doing much good. You can’t workout in autopilot!

As a mom, wife, sister, daughter, professional, accountant, chauffeur, chef and woman, you’re being pulled in enough different directions and consider yourself fortunate that you’ve managed allocate an hour a day, four days a week! Now you have to remember to change it up? Relax! It’s not tough at all. Minor tweaks to your workout are all it will take to get you going, and once you start seeing the results, you will find the motivation to challenge your body in different ways. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Treadmill running (this could also apply for stationary bike)

  • Start out by running your normal speed for 10-15 minutes.
  • Increase the pace to an intensity where you can still carry on a conversation, but not easily for about 60 seconds.
  • As your muscles adapt over time, you can vary the speed, incline and even the time to make it more challenging.
  • Drop back down to your conversational pace for 5 minutes.
  • As your muscles adapt, you can reduce this interval to 2 minutes.
  • Repeat this cycle throughout your workout
    • You don’t need a marked track to do interval training. If running on the road is the only way you can get your cardio, then incorporate landmarks into your run. After the initial 15-20 minute warm-up, spot a tree or a lamppost in the distance and run to it at a faster pace.
  • Road running

    Weight training

  • Incorporate more functional training (training that mimics moves of daily life) into your routine. Instead of isolating just a couple of muscle groups, challenge your body by incorporating multiple muscle groups. Not only will your workout be more efficient, you’ll reap much bigger calorific rewards.
  • Incorporate a balance ball into your training.
  • Almost any upper body exercise that uses dumbbells can be done sitting on a balance ball, which will engage your core muscles (lower back and abdomen in this case) to support you.
  • Perform exercises on one leg instead of two! The added benefit of this is that you improve your balance and stability.
  • Make it tougher by performing the exercises on a balance board.
  • If you’ve been using machines in the gym for weights, try and transition a few of those exercises to free weights. Dumbbells and barbells require more coordination and stability than pulley machines, which only work on a single plane.

Try something new

Be it belly dancing (350 calories per hour), kick boxing (600+ calories per hour) or even yoga (350+ calories per hour). If you’ve never done it before, it’s something new that your muscles have to adapt to, making them work harder, thereby burning more calories.

Plan to challenge your muscles with new exercises at least every 6 weeks — this way they can’t get lazy and stop working for you. After all, if you’re putting in the time, don’t you want to see the results?


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