Variety and Recovery: Keys to Exercise Success

Think about your cur­rent work­out rou­tine. Is it the same every day? Do you find your­self bored or unmo­ti­vat­ed? Are you no longer see­ing the results you used to?

If you answered yes” to any of these ques­tions, you may need to add vari­ety and recov­ery into your rou­tine. These are crit­i­cal ele­ments of any suc­cess­ful exer­cise pro­gram and can ben­e­fit every­one — from work­out enthu­si­asts to those just start­ing to exercise.


Vari­ety is foun­da­tion­al to cre­at­ing an effec­tive exer­cise pro­gram. At the very least, mix­ing up your work­outs will help pre­vent bore­dom and keep you moti­vat­ed to exer­cise. But vari­ety also has impor­tant phys­i­o­log­i­cal ben­e­fits. Your body can adapt to a repet­i­tive exer­cise pro­gram in just six to eight weeks. This means that becom­ing stag­nant in your rou­tine can soon lead to no addi­tion­al gains, and you may even expe­ri­ence a drop-off in results.

Here are a few sim­ple ways you can incor­po­rate vari­ety into your work­out rou­tine while still enjoy­ing your favorite activities:

  • Increase the inten­si­ty of your work­out — Some­times, the best way to avoid a plateau in your work­out is by increas­ing the inten­si­ty of your activ­i­ty. For exam­ple, if you walk or run, try incor­po­rat­ing some sprints or hills into your route.
  • Cross-train — This is one of the most crit­i­cal ways to avoid plateau­ing and can even pre­vent injury. Mix­ing car­dio and strength train­ing, upper and low­er body work­outs and a vari­ety of exer­cis­es and equip­ment engages your entire body with­out over­load­ing spe­cif­ic mus­cle groups. For exam­ple, to build endurance, you can mix it up between run­ning, bik­ing, swim­ming, ellip­ti­cal machines, Stair­mas­ter or row­ing to keep moti­vat­ed while work­ing your whole body.
  • Change the order of your rou­tine — You can also switch up the order in which you per­form exer­cis­es to chal­lenge your body’s adap­ta­tions and fatigue your mus­cles in dif­fer­ent patterns.


It may seem counter-intu­itive, but appro­pri­ate down time from exer­cise improves your per­for­mance. Rest allows your body to go through a crit­i­cal recov­ery process where mus­cles repair micro-tears, allow­ing them to enlarge and strength­en. This rebuild­ing process takes 24 to 48 hours and is a nat­ur­al adap­ta­tion to the stress of exer­cise. Work­ing your mus­cles too hard before they have a chance to repair may result in tis­sue break­down instead of building.

This is where cross-train­ing comes in to play a big part in recov­ery. Alter­nat­ing activ­i­ties allows cer­tain body parts to rest while oth­ers are being engaged. Over­load­ing the sys­tem in a sin­gu­lar way can be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. For exam­ple, high-mileage run­ners have a greater risk of overuse injuries, like stress frac­tures and ten­donitis, than those doing the same amount of exer­cise but spread­ing phys­i­cal exer­tion between run­ning, bik­ing and swim­ming. Alter­nat­ing upper and low­er body days for strength train­ing also allows mus­cles to recover.

Time­ly rest can also help pre­vent men­tal burnout. If you’re find­ing it hard to stay engaged in an exer­cise rou­tine, try sub­sti­tut­ing a day or two with lighter activ­i­ties such as yoga, stretch­ing or walk­ing to stay motivated.

Monot­o­ny can bring even the most active peo­ple to a screech­ing halt. Vari­ety and recov­ery are essen­tial to your over­all per­for­mance and health, both phys­i­cal­ly and men­tal­ly. If you’re feel­ing unmo­ti­vat­ed to exer­cise or frus­trat­ed with your results, try incor­po­rat­ing these tips into your routine.

If you would like to learn more or talk to one of our orthopaedic spe­cial­ists, please click here to sched­ule an appoint­ment online.

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