The Power of a Boring Exercise Routine

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
  • You eat the same breakfast every day because it gives you one less thing to think about on busy mornings when you're trying to get out the door.
  • You drive the same way to work each day because you know the route and the traffic routine is fairly consistent.
  • You exercise every day on your lunch hour because you know that time of day works best for you.
  • You eat snacks and meals at the same time each day because you know that's when you'll be hungry.
There's nothing wrong with being a creature of habit, especially when those habits are good for you and your overall wellbeing. Habits help you get through the day productively so that you aren't constantly having to make complicated decisions.

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?