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Supercharge Your Workout

Feb 16 2021
7 min read
close-up on a smiling young man and woman as she leans her arm on his shoulder

Think about your preferred type of exercise: maybe it’s taking a fitness class or doing Pilates at home.

Maybe it’s walking with a friend or doing a mix of bodyweight moves. Or perhaps it’s something more focused, like training for a race. Whether it’s a high- or low-impact activity, performed with a group or on your own, involves equipment or not, it’s inevitable that, after some time, you’ll feel that you’re working out on autopilot. The “same old” can feel, well, repetitive and boring, not to mention less physically demanding and beneficial.

That’s when you know it’s time to amp it up – to adjust how you’re doing the workout so that it feels new, motivating and challenging. By making some changes, you’re asking yourself to do a little bit more, taking your fitness a little bit further each time. In some cases, adding even the smallest twist might not feel like much at first, but it will really make a difference as you continue to commit to it.

Five of our Facebook fans shared workouts that they do on a regular basis, some of which you may call your own, that they felt needed a boost. Our exercise staff offered these suggestions to supercharge their (and your) sessions:

I work out on the treadmill; whether I’m walking or running, I feel like I need to challenge myself in another way.

If you’ve been exercising on a treadmill for some time now, you’re most likely familiar with some of the more obvious ways to change things up, like increasing the incline or doing intervals. While those can work well, trying something even more specific, such as a distinct speed challenge, can not only push you physically but mentally.

For example, if you’re running, warm up for five minutes, run a quarter-mile at your normal pace, and then try to shave 10 seconds off the next quarter-mile. So, if you usually complete that distance in three minutes, aim for two minutes, 50 seconds. Do this several times during your workout. You can try this challenge walking on the treadmill too. After two weeks, you may want to go a step further and try completing a half-mile faster.

My back-strengthening routine needs something more. I find myself doing the same five exercises.

Try yoga. Moving through poses and balance sequences helps engage all the muscles in your back. Specific moves, like Bridge, Plank and Cat-Cow, are great for back strengthening. If you can, sign up for a class package, so you continue practicing each week.

You can also try using an inflatable exercise ball to enhance your back workout. Performing bridges, planks or spinal rotations (when you sit on the ball with your arms extended out to your sides and rotate your upper body side to side) on the ball offers a challenging way to do exercises you might normally do on the floor.

Walking outside is my preference, but I end up taking the same routes and climbing the same hills. What else can I do to push myself a bit more?

Though you may not be interested in running, incorporating a little of it into your walk is a simple way to take your workout to a new level.

Consider finishing each walk with an additional one, two or three minutes of jogging. Just this little addition bumps up your calorie burn and could help you log an extra half-mile every week. And if you think about the big picture, you could run a marathon over the course of a year (if you’re jogging six to eight minutes per week). If you’re anxious about running because of a weak hip or knee, remember that your muscles will be warm and supple by the time you start, and if you’re not limping when you walk, you should feel fine jogging.

Walking on a different type of terrain – sand, dirt, a wooded trail – can also up the challenge, as can wearing a backpack and turning your walk into a hike.

I’ve been a fan of the stationary bike for quite some time, but I often get bored quickly and give up. Is there anything I can do that will help me lengthen my ride?

Most stationary bikes offer a place to prop your tablet or device – answering emails, browsing the Web or making your grocery list can help distract you without affecting your form while you’re pedaling; be sure to maintain the same revolutions per minute (RPMs). You may tack on an extra 15 or 20 minutes if you’re focusing on something other than the clock, burning more calories as a result.

If your bike session tends to be 30 or 40 minutes, you may want to try an indoor cycling class, which usually lasts 50 to 60 minutes and offers various challenges (increasing speed and resistance or standing while you pedal, for example). Or you can incorporate an interval test, which not only adds several more minutes to your ride but also requires you to exert more power: Warm up with light pedaling for five minutes, then cycle as you normally would for five minutes, and then try to match the wattage you pedal with your weight for one minute (which counts as additional time). So for example, a 140-pound person would try to pedal 140 watts. Switch back and forth between five minutes of your regular pace and the one-minute challenge, ending with a five-minute cool-down.

Most weeks, the only chance I get to move is when I’m walking my dogs. They stop to sniff often and don’t quite meet the pace I’d like to keep. How can I make this the workout I really need it to be?

If your workout has to be shared with your dogs’ exercise time, instead of walking them on a leash, go to the park and toss a Frisbee or ball so you can both run around and break a sweat. You’ll get your heart rate up while working out both your upper and lower body.

Using a pedometer or tracking device that logs your steps can also help you make your workout into something more. You may have been getting 3,000 steps on your usual outing with the dogs, but seeing the data on the pedometer may inspire you to go further and set a grand goal: 5,000 steps with the dogs each day means 25,000 each week (if we’re counting five days; maybe your spouse walks the dogs on the weekends), and that adds up to 100,000 steps in a month. Impressive numbers like that can not only motivate you but remind you that all types of movement, even a dog walk, can be the workout you want it to be.