The Secrets of Success: Mix It Up to Keep It Off

By , SparkPeople Blogger
We've already learned how important exercise is to weight-loss success. But what kind of exercise helps the most? Is any one form of cardio or strength-training better than another? We recently survey our most successful members--people who reached their goal weights or were still going strong after losing at least 100 pounds--to find out. We compiled all of their tactics in our best-selling book, The Spark, but we're sharing our 15 favorite secrets of success on the dailySpark from March 1-15.

Secret #8: Mix It Up to Keep It Off.
Successful members exercised at home, outside, in the gym, with home equipment or home DVDs, with workout groups or buddies, varying their routines and keeping it fun so that they were more likely to keep going. So how does workout variety help you lose weight?

Two ways. First, it's the best antidote to exercise boredom. I probably don't need to tell you that doing the same old workout day in and day out can become monotonous. And when you're bored with exercise, you're more likely to drudge through it (without working to your full potential) and more likely to make excuses. After all, if your workout isn't as fun or exciting, as the other parts of your life, why bother? This goes hand in hand with another secret we already talked about: making fitness fun. I love to run (it wasn't always that way), but I make it a point to change up my route, music, distance, pace and intensity from day to day to keep the activity fresh and interesting. That means you're more likely to stick with it instead of making excuses to avoid it.

The second reason mixing it up really helps is that it keeps your body guessing. When an exercise or movement is new, your body has to work hard to master it by sending signals to engage more muscle fibers, including ones that were once dormant. This is one reason why most exercise newbies experience some amazing results soon after starting a workout program. But over time, your body adapts to your routine. Those smart muscles of yours know exactly what's coming and they begin to work out as efficiently as possible, which means you're actually working less intensely than before and burning fewer calories. All that adds up to one thing: the dreaded plateau. But my mixing things up, trying new exercises and changing your routine, you keep your body guessing—and burning more calories as a result. That means better weight loss and more fitness improvements.

As easy as it is for me to tell you to mix things up, most people don't know exactly how to do that. Well you are in luck because the following SparkPeople resources will show you how.
Did you miss a secret? Find all the rest of the series of 15 here (a new one is posted every day through March 15). For more secrets to success, plus a 28-day jumpstart program you won't find anywhere else, read The Spark.

How do you mix things up? Has it made a difference in your mental and physical response to exercise?

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EVIE4NOW 12/24/2020
thanks, I needed this. Report
BILLTHOMSON 10/30/2020
Great information. I need to mix it up just to let certain muscles repair themselves. Report
good information to use Report
Good article. Thanks for the information. Report
Great Report
Thanks Report
Thanks! Report
Great article! Thanks! Report
Thank You for the great advice............... Report
Thanks for a great article! :) Report
thank you Report
I must work on this one. Report
Thank you for the post Report
Absolutely great Report
good points Report
I had been doing walk, water aerobics and yoga on a set schedule. I've now added one of Nicole's 10 min. cardio workouts and I'm starting to jog. Things should change. Report
I mix it up at Golds gym. I take taekwondo, aerobics classes
a weight lifting class, free weights and i walk on the treadmill
ocasionally. Report
I'm all into mixing things up. In the last week I have done the following: stair stepper, elliptical, running on a treadmill, cycling outside, spinning inside, weight training, walking. I normally would have also done a step class and maybe snowshoeing. Being active in different ways affects different muscles and allows other muscles to repair from a previous workout. Plus it's fun! Report
For me, this has been one of the biggest "secrets" to my success. I try to do a different workout every day and it keeps me and my body from being bored. I surround myself with a lot of choices so I rarely repeat a workout during a week, or even a month! I have a lot of workout DVDs, plus I use online videos here on SparkPeople and on ExerciseTV. When none of those interest me on a particular day, sometimes I just make up a workout as I go along, using cardio and strength training moves I have learned along the way. This approach has kept me interested in working out because I am always looking for new routines to add to my repertoire. Report
True! Mix up different exercise on alternate day does work. I do not mine that way you won't get bored. Exercise is challenging, always looking for some changes.
That your body will adapt an overall performances. Good article! Report
great blog, good insight... Report
I stick to boot camp and running my my "extra" for the day changes alot sometimes I will take a class at the Y or try a new video Report
Great article! I try to do different workouts all the time but sometime I feel like I'm still doing the same ol thing!!! I have been on this plateau for 2 months now... ITS DRIVING ME NUTS!!!! Report
I usually stick to the same old, same old.
I believe the main thing is to do it, whatever it is. Report
I enjoy brisk walking and do it almost every day. Everything else seems such a CHORE! I need to be better at mixing it up. Report
I think finding something that you truly love it doesn't seem like exercise; for me it's biking. For someone else it could be running, hiking, dancing or weight training. Find you love and use it to your advantage. Report
It does work
I mix things up by switching the exercise up. I do the exercise in counts like, 4 sets of 20. Yes it's made a difference physically. I have way more energy than before I started. I'm happy and more excited to loose weight now than before. Report
two sets Report
I borrow dvd's from the library and change my workout every 3 weeks with a new exercise dvd. Report
Mixing it up helps a lot! And quick fire team really helps with that! Report
I agree completely! Nothing kills exercise motivation more than boredom! And with so many different ways to exercise, there is no need to do the same things all the time. Report
I did a metabolic assessment (New Leaf) at the Y and that gave me a 12 week program that told me exactly what to do on my cardio portion three times a week. It was designed to rev up the metabolism and increase my O2 capacity. More complex ideas than I bothered to learn (other than the obvious benefits of revving metabolism). But it gave me very specific cardio workouts to vary my heart rate zones, from low to max, three times each week. I do the cardio on the treadmill (since this isn't the greatest season in Minnesota to work outside!), and NEVER got bored for the entire 12 weeks. One day may be very short intervals in all four different zones, the next might be 4 minutes low, 2 minutes mid-range, 2 minutes low, etc. I find I need so much mental engagement to track minutes and heart rate each workout that I no longer (EVER!) get bored with the treadmill - amazing! At the end of twelve weeks, my VO2 had increased significantly, and I had lost 8 pounds. YEA! I now have the next set of varied workouts. There must be websites that give similar specific programs without doing the metabolic assessment. And I found the very specific workouts work better for me than just mixing up the speed, incline, etc. The key for me was staying busy keeping close track of the individual interval minutes and heart rate. Worked for my short attention span! It even keeps me from going crazy over the cockamamy dueling news stations and their opinions when I can't change the channels on the TVs in the gym . . .

And are any of you doing TRX? LOVE IT! Report
I have to admit that there are parts of my routine I no longer enjoy as much, like today's upcoming core strength training. Today I plan to try a new routine just to keep myself interested and my body working on something new! Report
I'm guilty of not mixing up my routine as often as I should. I walk speed intervals on the treadmill three days a week. This gives me some variety by varying the speed and incline that I work at, but I'm about ready to move to the next level and work harder. I also plan to add swimming to my program once I've built a little consistency, so that will help mix it up more.

Thanks for the blog and for providing the links, Nicole! As always, it's very interesting and helpful! Report
I like to mix it up too. Each day at the gym I do a different machine or cardio workout. Report
There are so many workouts to choose from. I look forward to exercise each day because it's always changing, never boring! Plus, mixing things up challenges my brain; no exercise-ruts here! Report
I like to mix it up. I do exercise at home and at the gym. Also love hiking, walking and soccer. Can't beat being outdoors. I definitely would get bored doing all the same thing. Report
I agree 110%! Keeping your workouts interesting and challenging makes your mind and body work harder. It's also more fun to try new things. You can go to group classes, join a cycling group, sign up for a fun walk or try new DVDs. And you keep your body guessing. Report
I'm on board! Report
I definately agree on mixing up your workout routine,because this challenges other areas of the body,and when you do you can become aware of muscles in places you did'nt realize you had. Report
I recently hit a plateau and found Coach Nicole's earlier blogs and articles on "mixing it up". I followed her advice and changed a few things in my routine. I purchased some new exercise DVD's (including SparkPeople), started doing some of the 10 minute online workouts on breaks at work and added a bit of jogging to my regular boring walks. It definitely made a difference and helped me to reach one of my goals of weighing 145 by my 50th birthday. I can't say enough about how wonderful SparkPeople is. It always motivates me to keep trying! One more tip......stack up all of your DVD's and make a little exercise area with your weights, stretchy band, etc. Everytime you decide to use a DVD, put it aside in a separate stack so you use a different one every time until you've completed them all. Grab different size weights, a stretchy band or a jump rope to do something different even with old tried and true routines! Report
This is great! I've heard mixing it up helps with consistent weight loss but the way you explained it goes so much more in depth than what I've heard and makes total sense! Thanks for explaining and giving me new motivation! Report
I had NO idea of the benefits of mixing up ones routines, and keeping ones body guessing! TERRIFIC!! Thanks for the GREAT advice! Report
I also love to run and mix up my routes and distances in order to keep my body guessing. I like to try a new activity every month (or there abouts) that I've never done before. For instance, I may take up dance classes or kayaking. Report
Basically it comes down to if your not getting results or if you are getting bored you have to mix it up. However, if you ever want to get results in weight loss and you are working out in the potential to achieve these results your never bored anyways your just beat! Report
My husband and I hit the gym regularly and each month we switch up our routine. Free weights, cross cable and machines give us just enough difference. Report
I try to change up my work outs , but work the arms and shoulders 2 days a week, back and pecs 2 days and legs and butt 2 days. But using differant moves each time. I do 40 minutes of cardio and about 30 minutes core and stretch every day. there are days i work at the gym with the machines and days i work at home with light weights and DVD's. Report
For me, I switch up jogging one day and running the next...I do strength training one day and then rest the next...Yoga I do everyday! Report
I like to walk, jog, bike, elliptical and circuit training...I can change up the walking, jogging and biking by changing my route or intesity. Also with my Elliptical and Circuit...its easy to do...just be inventive, and find things that you enjoy doing... Report