Is your body ready for more? Look out for these signs that it’s time to increase your workout intensity. If you start listening to your body and understand when it’s time to increase your physical challenge, it will help you avoid hitting the dreaded exercise plateau.
Exercise should be progressive in nature. As your body adapts to the demands of your exercise routine, you should respond by slowly increasing the workout intensity. Training in this way will help you to keep improving and building on your results over time.
Athletes have trained in cycles that involve increasing the intensity, duration or load in their training for years as it is proven to keep your body improving. As a personal trainer and group exercise coach, I believe everyone can benefit from adapting their exercise routine every few months.
Our bodies all respond to a new exercise routine differently. Most people start to notice changes after following a plan consistently for 6-8 weeks. When you first start exercising, the physical changes and indicators that you’re physically improving tend to be quite pronounced. As you become fitter, knowing when it’s time to switch up the challenge becomes a little harder to notice.
Look out for these signs that your workout may be in need of a boost, and some tips on how to increase its intensity.
It feels easy
If your routine used to provide you with a challenge but now seems easy, it’s time to increase the difficulty level.
Tip: If you are only a few weeks into a new routine, add a balance challenge to work the small stabilising muscle groups in your body. Try using an upside down 1/2 ball for your squats to keep you focused.
If your workout on the treadmill or cardio equipment used to get you out of breath, but now allows you to talk easily throughout, it’s likely that your cardiovascular fitness has improved. To push yourself and burn additional calories, increase the challenge.
Tips: Increase the duration of your cardio workout to boost your endurance level. To improve strength and maximise calorie burn, increase the speed or incline.
Safety tip: Monitor your heart rate to ensure it stays within the safe guidelines for your age and fitness level (most cardio equipment has a chart to help you find this). Push yourself to improve; do not push yourself too hard too soon.
Weights are too light
If you’re lifting weights and they feel too light, you may need to increase the weight. In general, lifting very light weights for a high number of reps won’t provide your body with an effective challenge. Use your time more efficiently by increasing the weight.
Tip: Select a weight that you can use to perform 10-12 reps with good form. The last 3-4 reps should feel like a challenge. A good guide is a 10% weight increase every 3-4 weeks. Repetition is essential for mastery and muscular change, so when you first start out, spend time selecting the best starting weight. When it feels too easy, work on increasing intensity.
If your workout has you feeling uninspired or unmotivated, it’s time to change it!
Tip: Try a new class that challenges your mind and keeps you mentally engaged. Exercises that work two or more muscle groups simultaneously and those that require complex movement patterns are more likely to keep boredom at bay. Love to run? Incorporate a time challenge or find a picturesque trail to keep you stimulated.
Remember that an important part of any good fitness plan is a balanced nutrition plan. Make an effort to keep your results evolving by listening to your body and knowing when it’s time to change.
Written by Samantha Clayton, AFAA, ISSA. Samantha is Director of Fitness Education at Herbalife.