Help me change my exercise routine.
May 29, 2007 5:27 AM   Subscribe

While I'm still super enthusiastic about exercise, both my motivation and fitness level have plateaued. Suggestions?

I've been running for 30 minutes at a time fairly consistently for years and still enjoy it greatly. I moved from weight training at home with a bench and some cheap dumbbells to a wonderful gym last year. Since then, I've mostly been doing variations of the 3 Day Split Workouts found here. While I haven't seen any huge muscle gains, I'm fairly happy with the results. But the amount of weight I can lift hasn't increased in I don't know how long, and I'm starting to feel just a little burned-out.

So obviously, a change is needed, and I'm open to just about anything. Ideally, it would be something that would build some muscle and/or help me break through the walls I've hit when I return to the sort of weight training I've been doing. A friend has recommended the Bodypump classes offered at my gym, but I'm not much of a believer in low-weight/high-rep stuff, which is what this sounds like. And I've meant to take swimming lessons for a long time.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Take swimming lessons. I don't know about specific weight-lifting benefits, but it's great aerobic exercise, and there are massive psychological benefits to doing something that you've 'meant to for a long time'.
posted by jacalata at 5:35 AM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

seconding the swimming. it's a great workout, and your muscles all have to work together (not one at a time, as with weight lifting). so you may see some benefits just because you're training your muscles to work a different way.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:44 AM on May 29, 2007

- Keep a workout log and take it with you to the gym. Before I started doing this, I found a lot of the time I ended up using the same weight as my previous workout and never really got anywhere. Having a log with you gives you a mental goal and keeps you focused. Every workout I have now is a challenge to the last one. If I can beat my last workout I'm happy.

- Muscle takes a long time to build. Most males can only build 2-4lbs of lean muscle a month. It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of food to build muscle. For example I am 6'1" and 182lbs. I need to eat in excess of 3000 calories a day to really build muscle. I split that up into 330g+ of carbs, 240g+ of protein and about 100g of fats. I find a lot of people I know who workout and don't get the results they desire are normally neglecting the diet side of things.

- Take regular breaks, like every 8-12 weeks. If you feel your energy starting to dip, take a week off. Also you're diet can have a big impact on your energy levels. Make sure you are getting your protein, carbs and fats in the right ratios and at the right times.

- Take a look at the book "New Rules of Lifting" by Alwin Cosgrove for some great routines geared towards hypertrophy and strength training.

- These links here also have some great information on the nutrition side of things:

Guide to Clean Eating

12 Power Foods
posted by Hates_ at 5:49 AM on May 29, 2007

the amount of weight I can lift hasn't increased in I don't know how long

if you don't lift with a spotter, try it. first, you will likely try harder on your last rep or two just because someone else is there watching you. also, they can assist in your last rep or two. i've found that the greatest strength gains come from that last forced rep(s).

re: swimming. unlike running, it is a very technical skill. as such, it's unlikely that you'll get much of an aerobic workout until you develop good form/stroke. i've found that I end-up going anaerobic when swimming because my form/stroke are so weak (even when i'm extremely aerobically fit otherwise). i'm not saying that you should not start lessons, just that you should not expect swimming to provide a great aerobic workout at first.
posted by probablysteve at 6:41 AM on May 29, 2007

Not sure if your gym offers a training program, or if you want to spend the money, but working with a trainer really helped me take my workouts to another level. Even if you do one session a week for four or six weeks, you'll learn new exercises and ways to change up your workouts.

Another thought: if you enjoy the running, why not sign up for a local road race? Sounds like a 5K is already within your grasp. Running 30 minutes is great, but racing can get you mixing up your distances and changing your workouts as well. You can do some longer, slower training runs, and some shorter, faster speed workouts. Also it gives you a goal, which I find always helps me with my burnout.
posted by megnut at 8:17 AM on May 29, 2007

The way I understand it, our bodies are capable of very large degree of adaptation. After a while old routines stop working. So, switch it up, join a martial arts class. Check a few of them out and join the one that has an intense warm up/conditioning program. Maybe this will "shock" your body.

Swimming is also great. I'm in a fairly decent shape but I find myself struggling to even make it to 500m, so.
posted by aeighty at 10:18 AM on May 29, 2007

And a workout log doesn't have to be big. On the back of a business card I've listed exercises, reps and sets, pounds lifted, and the date. When I've stopped failing at the last rep, I add five pounds to the amount lifted. Every two weeks, I try to change the list. It's helped.
posted by Vault13 at 11:11 AM on May 29, 2007

"the amount of weight I can lift hasn't increased in I don't know how long, and I'm starting to feel just a little burned-out."

Take a week or two off exercise. During that week, do some reading about periodisation and cycling your weight. Work out a programme of cycles that starts at maybe 75% of what you can do and work up to 105%, over several weeks. Repeat ad lib (including the time off in between cycles).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:34 PM on May 29, 2007

You've gotta mix it up man. You've been doing a 3-day split for more than a year? No wonder you're bored and hitting a plateau.
Ignoring the ridiculous images on the site, a lot of people I know like HST for both strength and size gains. I've done it and it does seem to work pretty well, although I never did it super-seriously. Or try a 3X/week full body routine. I used to do something along the lines of squat or deadlift, pullups, bench or incline bench or dumbbell bench, maybe something for middle back, maybe something for rotator cuffs, abs.
Your intuition on the bodypump thing was good: that's probably not going to help you lift more. The trainers at your gym may or may not be any good. More likely than not, they are a waste of money, but if you see one that seems to know really good form on the major lifts (squat, deadlift, bench) they might be worth talking to.
Finally, of course, make sure your nutrition is in order. Are you getting enough calories? Enough protein? Not eating enough is a fast way to limit your strength gains. And of course, make sure you're getting plenty of rest. If you haven't taken a week off in a few months, consider it.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:17 PM on May 29, 2007

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