Thursday, April 12, 2012

The secret is....

How many times have you thought you were in the best shape of your life? How many times have you thought you were in the worst shape? If we make a goal to be fit forever, we have to reflect on these highs and lows and find the secret to the highs. 

When I first started teaching martial arts and running my own school in 2001, I had one of the “best” shape of my life experiences. I was training in karate everyday to master my teaching. It shredded the weight and toned the muscles.

But just two years later, in 2003, I was probably in one of the worst shapes of my life.  The funny thing is that I hadn’t stopped training in karate. In fact, I was probably doing it more. But I remember this awful moment when a teenager called me on my weight gain. “Mr. Chianakas,” he said, “You have put on a few pounds.”

He was a teenager who didn’t mean to offend, but he did. I actually thought: “I’d be in better shape if I didn’t spend all of my time teaching karate.”  Ironic, right? The very thing that got me in shape was what I was blaming for getting me out of shape.

Then I realized the secret: I had been doing the same thing over and over again. Our bodies get used to the work we do, and over time, the very exercises that got in us shape will have a significantly weaker effect. It’s why sometimes you see a runner or a biker, who has only ran or biked for years and done nothing else, who looks overweight. You would think a lifetime runner would always be in shape, but the truth is that we need variety in our exercise for the best results.

Shortly after that insulting comment, I remember being up late, eating a bag of Cheetos (my guilty pleasure at the time) and watching infomercials. I also wasn’t sleeping well.  I unfortunately wasted money on silly things like “The Perfect Pancake” (not so perfect, to be honest). But in one of my Cheeto eating moments, I saw an informercial for Power 90, a 90 day workout program. While stuffing down the junk food, I made an impulsive purchase and bought the program.

Unlike the perfect pancake, this program worked. It was a simple goal: for 90 days you will work out, alternating cardio and weight training. I completed the program, and I once again was in the best shape of my life. Students looked at martial arts pictures I had in my classroom from the previous year, and seriously asked, “Is this you?” They could not believe that I so much thinner and so much more toned in such a short period of time.

A couple of years went by, and I focused on my martial arts program. Guess what happened in a couple of years? I was once again out of shape. 

This information is not to slam teaching and dedication. It is a warning that if we rely on only one source for physical exercise that we will eventually get out of shape, even though we are being physical.

Guess what infomercial I saw next? P90X! I bought the P90X program, ten times more advanced, more challenging, and more rewarding than the original Power 90. It worked so well that I had a friend who I had not seen in just 3 weeks look surprised to see me. She said, “Has it only been a few weeks? You look like a different person.

The conclusion: P90X worked amazingly well.

I repeated this cycle more often then I want to admit: a year or two of my routine, a few months of something different. At the end of the few months I was always in better shape than after years of the routine.

All of the above is one reason why I argue variety is the key to our workouts. You have mix it up and mix it up often!

That’s why I now do Turbo Kick, which has a new round focusing on different muscle groups every 2-3 months, and I invest in the Beachbody programs.  I am 30 plus days into P90X2. I love it. But I am not going to let years go before I do the programs. Last year I completed Insanity. Then I waited nearly a year for that extra variety. 

My goals now include:

Constant Turbo Kick teaching 3-4 times a week and a new Beachbody program at least 2-3 times a year.

This summer, I plan to tackle Insanity: Asylum and bring back some old P90X workouts too.

So how do you incorporate variety in your workouts? What programs have you tried that are successful?

Let’s not only commit to fitness; let’s commit to variety. Variety is the secret to being fit for life.


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