A few years ago, a member of my gym came in for his usual once a week gym session like he had always done. I could not help noticing that he did the same training routine for the last three months, so I asked him what his goals were. He said that he was just doing it to ‘maintain’ his level of strength, health and fitness.
He was doing maintenance.
I asked him when he started this training program and he told me that he started it over twenty years ago. I was shocked. He did the same thing for twenty years. Wow! Familiarity, I agree, is one of the comforting things about life. I guess it gives us a sense of certainty and steadfastness in a world that is ever changing. We all try to cling on to something that is familiar and seemingly unchanging.
However, doing the same training program for twenty years for ‘maintenance’ may not be serving his purposes now. Yes, the program may have served his purposes when he was younger and in his twenties for a brief time, but for a brief time only. You see, it is common knowledge now that your muscles adapt to any exercise within five to six workouts. I told him that if his goal has been maintenance than working out with the same program for that long may not be aligned with that goal.
Studies show that after the big 3-0, your metabolism – the rate at which your body burns calories to function daily, begins to slow down, causing you to store more excess calories as unwanted body fat. A lot of men start storing a lot of ‘blubber’ around their gut and women tend to deposit it in the butt and legs. Not what many people want.
What you want and what you get can be poles apart because of this metabolic reduction.
Your metabolism drops for several reasons, one of them being that you progressively lose lean body mass (muscle) each year and your strength levels drop as you get older. That is why it is so important to ‘off-set’ this ageing effect or rate is by doing strength training and promoting protein synthesis and muscle growth. For optimal health results you would try combining it with some sort of cardiovascular exercise.
What qualifies as cardio or aerobic exercise? Any activity that elevates your heart rate and trains your lungs to become more efficient at delivering oxygen throughout your body.
Back to our story – familiarity is important for us all. It was important for my gym pal. I get that. However, getting stuck in a holding pattern and doing the same workout for years which is not aligned with the goal (in this case ‘maintenance’), could imply that they are too scared to stray from a routine that works. People who do this though are forgetting that the routine may have worked once, yes, but in the past. It may not necessarily work now. The truth is, sticking with what works doesn’t always work. It could be holding you back.
The above could apply to many areas of life too, but in this instance, I am relating it to the successful achievement of your physical transformation goals. Whether your goal is to burn fat, build a stronger, bigger chest or put on mass. All these achievements is just your body’s physiological and biological response to the various stimulus you place on your body’s muscles in your exercise routine.
It is through adaptation that the body morphs or changes. These adaptations eventually cease as your body handles the stresses or stimulus more efficiently. The result? Well, the body’s response to the workout you have been routinely doing for twenty years or so is not doing you any good. Your body ‘knows’ your workout so well now. Basically, you are getting less for each successive workout.
Because your muscles are not being forced to adapt, your metabolism or ‘engine room’ drops and you start burning fewer calories. You wonder why you’re not losing weight or fat or putting on muscle like you used to. You use fewer muscle fibers during your workouts, and this would leave you an unsatisfying taste in your mouth as the results you get is less than what you desired. Not motivating. Very frustrating!
So, sticking with what works is not always the best when it comes to achieving exercise goals.
How do you break this awful cycle, you may be asking?
One word: variety.
In a future blog, I will give you a few alternative exercises to the basic average beginner’s training program outlined in an earlier blog “How much time do you have for a workout?” This will add variety as change is needed.
You don’t need to make wholesale changes. Sometimes, just replacing one key exercise with an alternative can feel different enough to make your body think its trying something entirely new.
Be brave. Embrace change.
Change is always part of a good exercise program. Managing change is important.
A good workout program is like life: life is about change – if you’re not changing, you’re not living. So, don’t always stick with what works if maintenance is your goal. Instead, spice it up with a little variety. A little change.
Until next time,
Photos below: in the thick of contest battles in the recent past.