I heard this quote in 2 places. Years ago, I first heard Jillian Michaels make this comment during her Yoga Meltdown DVD, after she asked us to hold a very difficult yoga pose for 30 seconds. I also heard one of the trainers from The Biggest Loser say this quote while motivating contestants in the gym during the Fall 2014 season.
As I really think about this statement, the more I believe it to be true. The times I pushed myself to reach a level of discomfort in my workouts, the quicker my body changed as I became stronger. The goal of a workout is to reach “maximum effort”, which would vary from person to person, depending on his/her level of fitness. My maximum efforts 6 years ago at 230 pounds looked different, compared to now. Since 2008, I pushed myself a bit further each time I repeated a workout to the point where I am today.
I can attest, it was worth every drop of sweat, every minute of time, and all the sore muscles I endured in this process. Science supports this because when we put stress on our muscles, it causes muscle fibers to break down. In the process of our muscles repairing themselves, they get bigger and stronger. This theory also emphasizes why it is important to rest muscles after a weight-training workout.
The nice part is we can reach maximum effort while doing a variety of workouts, not limited to running, dancing, swimming, climbing, jumping rope, hiking, hula-hooping, weight training, step aerobics, kickboxing, skiing, snow-shoeing, soccer, basketball, and the list goes on. The key is to think about which activity would be most fun for you.
Those who have busy schedules like me, will like this part even more. The more intense our workout is, the less time we need to spend exercising. For example, Shawn T. (creator of Insanity) came out with his T-25 program, which consists of 25 minute workouts. Many of the workouts from Jillian Michaels are about a half hour. Many of the free Fitness TV workouts are a half hour or less.
If any of you are getting too accustomed to your workouts and are hitting a plateau, here are some tips to take it to the next level. If you are new to exercise or have any questions, please consult with your doctor and a personal trainer.
- Change it up. Do workouts your body has not done in a while. I will alternate between running on my treadmill, kickboxing, ballet, yoga, Pilates, high intensity interval training (with weights), abdominal workouts, and stretching.
- Do as much as YOU can do. We should not beat ourselves up if we cannot finish every repetition in the exercise video. The goal should be to do all we can and to gradually increase the amount of repetitions each time we complete the workout.
- Add weights. While executing an aerobic workout, hold 1 pound dumbbells. That will be enough to increase heart rate to burn fat and build muscles.
- Add speed. Do it faster or in double time if possible. When I am in my final minute of a running workout, I like to increase my speed to 7.0 mph as my final sprint. This rule can apply to so many exercises. Consult with a trainer before you decide to add speed work with weights.
- Do it on 1 foot. If you have dumbbells, there are many upper body exercises you can do with weights while standing on one foot. This helps with balance, gives our abdominal muscles an amazing workout, and increases our heart rate.
- Do it on your tip toes. When we stand on the tips of our toes, we work our calves and our balance.
- Go horizontal! I mean plank position. I have to tell you, I cringe every time I have to do mountain climbers, burpees, plank twists, plank jacks, or side planks. I hate the uncomfortable feeling of tension in my abdominal muscles, lower back, arms, shoulders, and hands. I force myself to hold it longer anyway. Why? Because these exercises really help incinerate my mid-section and improve my posture. When I weighted 230 pounds, I was able to hold a plank position for 10 seconds. Recently, I planked for 1 minute and 40 seconds.
My 8-year-old son took this picture while he timed my plank
Photo may not be used without permission
- Add an incline. For those who are not ready for high impact aerobic activity, and need a great cardiovascular workout, walk at a steep grade on the treadmill. This is a great heart workout which causes a lot of sweat. For those who are runners, add an incline to the treadmill while running, to push it to the next level.
Every time I work out, it is my goal to go “all out,” and push myself as hard as I can. Why? Because it feels amazing when the workout is over. It feels even more amazing to zip up a single-digit sized pair of jeans! I know getting started is hard. Every moment of temporary discomfort I experienced was worth it, because I am in the best shape of my life and it continues to get better as time goes on.
How do you take it to the next level in your workouts? Please share your techniques in the comment section. If there are any of you with challenges, please share them as well. Someone in our community may have your answer, or I may decide to blog about it another day.