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Varying Your Workouts and Seeing Results

Cross-training is about adventure and trying new things. You don't have to be the adventurous type, though. It's not necessarily about bungee jumping, rappelling, or white water rafting. Cross-training is about making little changes to your present routine, so even if the only thing that's new is the angle of your biceps curl. Cross-training is the solution for everyone, whether you're a sometime exerciser that wants to look better or a competitive athlete whose aim is to develop advanced sports skills.

Five ways to vary your workouts

Here are five ways you can switch up and organize your workouts:

  • Switch to different activities: Does the stair-stepper in the left corner of the gym have your name on it? Next time, head to the rowing machine. Sneak into a step class. Try something new.
  • Vary how you train: If you walk regularly, some days you can walk slowly over a long distance, and other days you may want to alternate walking and jogging. Other days you may want to focus on walking a mile as fast as possible. You can also utilize items in the environment to get you working harder: If you see steps, walk up and down them, walk backwards and sideways, walk up hills, and so on.
  • Splice same-old, same-old workouts: Instead of one long run, insert some stair climbing every time you run past a stairway. Or if you're in the park, do step-ups on every fifth park bench you see. Get off that stationary bike midway and run for five minutes on the treadmill.
  • Try different moves with different tools: You don't have to use the same set of dumbbells all the time. A new wave of resistance equipment is flooding the gyms, giving you hundreds of more ways to do the same old exercises. Use stability balls, weighted medicine balls, exercise bands, balance boards, a step, barbells, weighted vests, and so on.
  • Up the ante: Push yourself a little bit harder than usual: Run faster, increase the weight you lift or the number of sets you do, perform a more difficult version of an exercise, pair up exercises together to superset, or change the order of the exercises you do in a session.

Varying your daily workouts

To give you an idea of all the different single session workouts you can do, here are some routines that you can follow both in the gym and outside. As well as giving you a breakdown of time intervals (how many minutes to spend during each phase of a session), take note of the intensity levels to work at during each interval. You will see a number that corresponds to the Perceived Rate of Exertion scale. This rating systems helps you gauge intensity by rating your perceived exertion (how hard you feel like you're working) on a scale of 0 to 10; 0 is the equivalent of no exertion at all, 5 represents heavy exertion, and 10 represents very, very heavy (almost max) exertion.

Remember to modify the intensity and time of any interval by either slowing down or speeding up, or shortening or lengthening a time slot as you feel fit.

The Cardio Machine Variety Hour

Recharge your machine routines with this cross-training approach to gym workouts. When you get on each machine, enter the time that you want to stay on that machine and then choose the manual mode in order to change your intensity level. Pick a time when the gym is less busy and move as quickly between machine stations as you can. Use as many different machines as possible. Substitute machines when necessary.

Shorten the workout to 20-40 minutes if you're a beginner by shortening the length of time of each interval and/or using fewer machines.

10 minutes

Warm up on the bike.

5 minutes

Climb the revolving step machine (exertion level 4).

5 minutes

Walk on the treadmill (exertion level 4).

5 minutes

Walk uphill on the treadmill (exertion level 4, incline 1.0 grade).

5 minutes

Row on the rowing machine or rowing ergometer (exertion level 4).

10 minutes

Step on the stair-stepper (exertion level 5).

10 minutes

Ride on the elliptical trainer (exertion level 4).

5 minutes

Climb on the climbing machine (exertion level 3).

5 minutes

Cool down on the recumbent bike.

The Weight Circuit Variety Hour

Using free weights and cardio machines or different cardio options perform two exercises followed by a cardio interval. Try to allow no more than 30 seconds between sets. Substitute exercises and cardio options when necessary.

10 minutes

Warm up by walking on the treadmill; move arms in different directions slowly.

3 minutes

Perform two sets of squats.

3 minutes

Perform two sets of military presses overhead

2 minutes

Step up and down on a bench.

3 minutes

Perform two sets of squats.

3 minutes

Perform two sets of biceps curls.

2 minutes

Jog in place or on a treadmill.

3 minutes

Perform two sets of back lunges.

3 minutes

Perform two sets of triceps kickbacks.

2 minutes

Do jumping jacks.

3 minutes

Perform two sets of lunge scissor kicks.

3 minutes

Perform two sets of rubber band rows.

2 minutes

Jump rope.

3 minutes

Do the walk-thru lunge.

3 minutes

Do push-ups.

2 minutes

Perform knee lifts in place or step on stair-stepper.

10 minutes

Cool down by walking on the treadmill or marching in place.

The Running Variety Hour

Do this walk/jog/run workout on a treadmill or around your block. Shorten the more intense intervals as necessary.

15 minutes

Warm up by walking from a slow to brisk pace.

5 minutes

Jog.

5 minutes

Jog faster

5 minutes

Jog slower.

2 minutes

Run as fast as you can.

5 minutes

Walk.

2 minutes

Run as fast as you can.

5 minutes

Walk.

5 minutes

Jog.

3 minutes

Pick up the pace and run.

8 minutes

Cool down by walking.

The Playing Field Variety Hour

Here's a good cardio blast. All you need is a good pair of running or cross-training shoes and your local school ground. Decrease the time as needed.

10 minutes

Warm up by walking around the field.

10 minutes

Start from one corner and run to the diagonally opposite corner; walk down the side of the field to the opposite corner; then run to the diagonally opposite corner; repeat.

10 minutes

Move sideways along all four sides of the field doing the carioca — shuffle moving to the right by stepping out with the right foot and crossing the left in front, then stepping out with the right foot and crossing the left in back quickly. On each long side of the field, alternate the lead foot.

10 minutes

Move backward doing back lunges across the length of the field.

10 minutes

From diagonally opposite corners, run to the opposite corner lifting your knees as high as you can.

5 minutes

Do jumping jacks.

5 minutes

Cool down by walking around the field.

The Home Fitness Variety Hour

Bring out your dumbbells and/or rubber resistance bands and sneak this intense total-body workout into your day.

5 minutes

Warm up by walking around the block.

10 minutes

Run around the block.

10 minutes

Alternate 3 sets of 12 jumping jacks and squats.

10 minutes

Step up and down off a step or stair in your home.

10 minutes

Alternate 3 sets of 12 back lunges, push-ups, and biceps curls.

10 minutes

Alternate 3 sets of 12 rubber band rows and lateral raises.

5 minutes

Cool down by marching in place.

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