Just then, the kids bound into the kitchen for breakfast. They pour sugar-coated, fruit-flavored cereal and milk into their bowls. Patty makes the decision to eat a healthier cereal of wholesome granola with skim milk.
After breakfast, everyone piles into the van. Patty drops the kids off at school, heads to the office, and gets straight to work. She spends the morning deeply immersed in several projects, so she's surprised when she glances at the clock and sees that it is already lunchtime. Patty had intended to pack her lunch the night before, but never got around to it, so she heads to the company's café to check out her options. There, she spots the chicken Caesar salad, which consists of chicken strips on a bed of romaine lettuce with various salad toppings, all tossed with Caesar salad dressing. She knows that's the ticket—low calorie and nutrient rich. For a beverage she opts for a soda, figuring just one little splurge won't hurt since her other food choices so far today have been carefully planned.
Back on the job, Patty is approached by three of her favorite coworkers. They suggest heading to the local bar for happy hour after work. Although she hesitates, Patty doesn't want to forgo the fun and ultimately joins her friends. At the bar, she makes a conscious effort to keep her low-calorie meal plan on target. She nibbles on just a few crackers and cheese cubes, and orders a small glass of heart-healthy red wine.
Upon arriving home, Patty is surprised by her husband, who has cooked a pasta dinner. Because he knows she's watching her weight, he used whole wheat spaghetti and topped it with a basil pesto sauce. What a thoughtful guy, she thinks, thanking him for the wonderful meal.
After she and her husband clean up dinner and put their kids to bed, Patty feels like she can finally relax and unwind. She really wants ice cream, but makes a wiser choice to reach instead for the frozen yogurt to boost her calcium intake.
As Patty heads off to bed, she confidently thinks, "This healthy, low-calorie eating is a snap. I'm positive I hit my calorie goal or maybe even less. A few more days like today and I know I'll be one to two pounds lighter." Coffee: Breakfast: Lunch: Happy Hour: Dinner: Dessert: TOTAL for the DAY = 2,542
TOTAL for the DAY = 2,542
With so many fitness trainers and experts insisting on the importance of "mixing things up for maximum results," though, you might feel pressure to constantly change your exercise routine. While it's true that you don't want to do the same exercise routine exactly the same way every single day for months and months, does that mean everything about your routine has to change? If you walk regularly, do you need to stop walking and do something completely different?
Yes, our bodies quickly adapt to the same daily activities. But surprisingly, there can be power in a routine that, in general, doesn't change. Especially when you're first starting out, a regular routine can help keep you accountable and get your body used to this new normal of being active. Once you've become a seasoned exerciser, a regular routine can offer a simple way to track progress and allow you to continue the activities you have learned to enjoy.
SparkPeople Members Share the Appeal of a "Boring" Exercise Routine
Paula (PAULALALALA) knows how she wants to structure her weekly workouts and the less she has to think about it, the better. "I find it easier to keep up with the routine when I know what to expect from my workouts. The workouts I've chosen are the ones that I can see and feel results from. The classes I've chosen are with instructors who don't use the same exercises every time, but are predictable in the way they set their workouts up," she explains. "There's nothing quite as discouraging as going into a class where the instructor feels they have to throw everything in the book at you, and then spend half the time explaining the new moves. I go away from those workouts feeling as if I haven't really spent my time wisely."
For others, keeping to a consistent routine makes the numbers game easier when it comes to tracking. Ryan (RYAN133HW) finds it easier to stick to a plan and track her progress when she does the same kinds of workouts. "Each morning when I get up, I know today is Tuesday so I'm going to spin, or today is Friday so I have yoga," she explains. The schedule also offers Ryan the opportunity to challenge herself and gauge her progress in real time. "Each week I am aware of how much I improved from the week before When I first started to spin, [for example] I couldn't make it through the full hour without at least two or three breaks," she recalls, "I remember how proud I was the first time I was able to continue peddling throughout the entire class. The first time I came out of the saddle, I can't even tell you how that made me feel."
That feeling of improvement, of getting stronger and of seeing change is a powerful, almost addicting sensation. Watching as your yoga poses improve, your runs get easier and your dumbbells get heavier will likely make you want to keep reaching for that next level. As you start to see what your body is capable of doing, that---rather than feeling obligated—becomes the driving force. That desire to reach a new personal best is a source of motivation and accomplishment that you might not otherwise see if you bounce from class to class or routine to routine.
In his 30 years as a bodybuilder, Bill (BILLMC6) similarly believes that if you find some form of exercise that you are willing to do on a regular basis, you will see benefits. "Consistency is better than jumping around from routine to routine, since constant change prevents you from really getting good enough at anything to see positive results," he says. "I will admit that I am not a big person, but by doing what I love for the past three decades, with basically the same routine, I have gained muscle, gotten stronger and have a lot more confidence in myself than I had when I was younger."
ANARIE prefers the term "well-rehearsed" over "boring" to describe an exercise program that basically stays the same. "I like variety, but there's a lot to be said for routine. If you do the same thing over and over and over, you reach a point where you don't have to think about it and your mind is free to wander," she says. "It becomes almost like meditation, or like playing a well-practiced musical piece. I suspect that a lot of people who are successful at sustaining an exercise routine over the long term are able to do it because they enjoy exercise as their thinking time."
If you've struggled with consistency in the past and found it difficult to stick with a regular exercise routine, perhaps it's because you haven't found exercises you enjoy. When you like what you're doing, you're more likely to stick with it, that's a fact. If your daily walk is something that challenges your body, gets your heart rate up and you look forward to doing, then stick with it! There are many ways to vary your walk by adding hills, speed intervals, changing the distance and more to keep your body guessing. Many times your body will give you the signs that it's time to change your workout routine.
Everyone is different, so while some people need variety to keep them interested, others need routine to keep them happy. I've been a runner for years, and if someone told me I had to stop and do something different, I'd be unhappy. I have days when I work hard to try something new with my run, but other days, I go on autopilot and use that time to clear my head and think about other things. As with most things in life, it's all about balance.
What about you? Are you a creature of habit when it comes to your workouts, or do you believe that variety is the spice of life?
Need some Asian inspiration? Here are some of our favorite regional recipes from talented food bloggers, along with a few from our own SparkPeople members.
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I've always joked about the fact that I'm a slow runner. I remind my kids that even though they can beat me in a sprint, eventually my endurance will win out and I'll catch them. Just as the tortoise eventually caught up to the hare, it just takes me a little while longer.
Have you ever been intimidated to try new activities because you know there's a chance you'll finish last or can't keep up? Are you worried that people will judge you because of it? Perhaps there's a class at the gym you've always wanted to try, but you're not sure if you're fit enough. Maybe you'd love to take a walk or jog around the neighborhood, but don't want everyone to judge your form or pace. Have you ever stopped to think that maybe you're too focused on other's opinions when you should just be focusing on yourself?
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Kevin lost 75 pounds in 12 months.*
"If you do exactly what (HMR) tells you to do, there's no way you can fail...that's the great thing about this program."
With the help of his HMR coach and HMR's nutritionally complete (and filling!) meal plan, Kevin lost 75 pounds in 52 weeks. Now, Kevin is grateful for his new life— and he doesn't worry about having to take the stairs.
Watch Kevin's Story
With everyone in their bikinis, one woman turned to me, loudly declaring, "If I had a body like that, I'd rule the world!" Rather than celebrating body differences and discussing fitness aspirations, the single comment resulted in the group ganging up on me, critiquing and chiding me for being fit—all over a comment I didn't solicit and found ludicrous.
While there are countless instances in which envy over how I looked caused people to react to me in a certain way, the above example is particularly poignant. The fact that alcohol was involved (which certainly played a big part in the petty behavior) didn't ease the shock I felt from my long-time friend joining in to ridicule me with comments like, "Well, what do you expect—look at how you're dressed!" What!? In a bikini, like every other woman on board?
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