Updated: Feb 25
In this article we will take a look at the dangers of repetitive training including: how to break repetitive cycles while introducing some diversity back into your regime.
Are you caught in a repetitive training cycle? Is your training regime a dim reflection of Groundhog Day? If it was represented as a colour chart would it sit somewhere between magnolia and drab?
Answering yes to any of the above questions indicates that you probably need to add some spice to your exercise life.
In this article I will outline a number of dangers associated with repetitive training which will support my argument for why we should diversify the exercises we participate in. Following the dangers I will explore in brief 4 methods of mixing up a mundane regime.
Three reasons why you need to avoid repetitive training
By repeatedly performing the same exercises we repeatedly use the same muscles. As painfully tautological as that statement is few people recognise the risks associated with overusing muscles. This perhaps accounts for why overuse injuries, the severity of which ranges from mild strains to stress fractures, contribute to 50% of all exercise and sports related injuries. If muscles are not given adequate time to recover the damaged tissue can no longer withstand the load being placed on them thus dramatically increasing injury susceptibility. By changing the training modality, from, say, continuous to strength, or body region, lower body to upper body, the damaged muscles is given time to recover. Actually, recent research has demonstrated that active recovery (light exercising or a gentle swim) can promote quicker recovery as it stimulates blood flow and helps to remove metabolic waste.
2) Diminished performance
This is really a precursor to injury. By over working the muscles we impede the recovery process – this is when damaged tissue is repaired and additional, compensatory, tissue is grown (otherwise known as hypertrophy). This is the basic biological mechanism that leads to ‘physiological adaptation’, increased muscles mass/density and improved performance. Repetitive training can slow, stop or reverse this process. Retrograding or stagnating performance is an indicator of overusing the muscle and it is your body’s way of telling you to give it a rest and/or change things up.
3) Loss of exercise enthusiasm/motivation
Boredom in the bedroom can spell disaster for a relationship. No less is different in our relationship with exercise. Repetition – that is, performing the same old moves – can lead to boredom, loss of motivation and, eventually, the disintegration of our training regime. This is where we start skipping the occasional session and soon exercise disappears from our life all together. A sad and sorry outcome that is entirely preventable. If you feel this might be happening to you do not fret. For the fires of motivation and passion can be rekindled. To find out how read on . . .
Before we progress into the methods of mixing up our training regime I want to conclude this section with a few fear-mongering facts.
80% of injuries in endurance training – running/cycling – are a consequence of repeatedly over-using the same muscles.
In individual sports and skill based activities requiring repetitive movements upwards of 80% of injuries are attributed to over-use
Overusing a muscle can trigger the inflammatory response which, if allowed to persist, can lead to excessive scar tissue, impaired and painful mobility (Peterson 2001).
Below I have listed then briefly outlined 4 methods that could be used to spice up a tasteless exercise regime.
1. Create an exercise programme
2. Partner up with a friend
3. Supplement a weekly session with a circuit
4. Attend a local exercise class
1: Create an exercise programme
By creating a programme – let’s say for 8 weeks – the exercise modality will be decided for you thus preventing repetition. Yes, of course, you could be pedantic and say well what if I create a repetitive programme? How’s that going to help matters?’ The point of a programme is to plan a creative and consciously constructed framework of which you are to follow.
The problem with most peoples’ training regime is that little to no conscious thought goes into its construction; the regime is repeated to that the I’ve-done-exercise box can be ticked. By spending an hour developing a programme we can radically reform our approach to exercise.
However, depending on your level of experience and knowledge developing a programme can be quite confusing. To make your life easier you could, for little more than the price of a Big Mac Meal, purchase one of the excellent Hungry4Fitness exercise programmes (see image above). Each programme – which range from 8 to 12 weeks – comes with all the tools and information you need to design your very own personalised programme. The programmes also include ready-made training sessions, health and fitness testing procedures and nutritional guidance (and meal plans). Basically the whole package for health.
2: Partner up with friends or mutual exercise enthusiasts
Often we get caught in a trap of performing the same regime because over time we have cultivated a certain self-efficacy in that particular activity. We not only feel comfortable with the activity of choice but confident too. Consequently, fear of under performing and leaving the safe confines of our comfort zone prevents us from venturing out into the vast and diverse wilderness of exercise.
A friend (or friends), who may well be stuck in a similar situation, could enable you to broaden your training horizons. Let me give you an example. I’ll be the first to admit that I have my exercise preferences. I love cardio training, endurance activities and circuits. What I’m not so keen on his strength training. Coincidentally, a friend of mine was the polar opposite – he loved all things strength and abhorred cardio.
On realising that I was missing out on the benefits strength training has to offer, I convinced my friend to form a partnership where one of our sessions each week was to be dictated by the other. By doing this we had to try something new and thus forced out of our respective comfort zones. The initiative worked well and we both enjoyed a boost in performance not to mention noticeable body compositional changes.
3: Supplement a weekly session with a circuit
As stated above, I’m a huge fan of circuit training. My reasons are manifold. Circuit training can stimulate pretty much all of the components of fitness. Whereas running promotes a cardiovascular and muscular endurance response, circuit training can do the same but at the same time also develop strength, power, coordination and reaction time.
Depending on the design of the circuit you can experience a whole body workout. If you are not sure how to design a circuit consider the Hungry4Fitness Book of Circuits Vol.1. For less than the price of a cappuccino and blueberry muffin from one of those fashionable coffee houses you will be the proud owner of 50 outstanding circuits including a detailed guide of how to design your own circuits and – yes and! – a stretching plan.
4: Attend a local exercise class
Though I would never advocate paying a personal trainer as an intervention to bring about regime reform, certainly not for any length of time, the occasional exercise class can be an excellent way to reinvigorate your training.
Most exercise classes cost no more than a pint and packet of Cheesy Wotsits and they can be great places to strike up alliances with other exercise enthusiasts. Really, what you’re doing here is outsourcing the responsibility of training diversification to a paid professional. Lazy I know, but it’s an effective method and it keeps someone in a job.
Ok, deep breath . . . inhale . . . exhale . . . and again . . . inhale . . . exhale . . . feel better? Course you do. We’ve covered quite a lot in this reasonably compact blog and our discourse has touched on the potential negative ramifications associated with a repetitive regime to reformation tactics.
It is my sincere hope that you will walk away with some ideas of how to rejuvenate and reinvigorate your regime. Remember, overusing a muscle can lead to injury and waning motivation. Both of which could spell disaster for your long-term health.
To avoid these undesirable outcomes mix your exercises and be emboldened to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.
(As we are very interested in user feedback at Hungry4Fitness, I would be very grateful if you could take a few seconds out of your day to leave a comment. Thanks in advance!)
Adam Priest is a former Royal Marines Commando, personal trainer, lecturer, boxing and Thai boxing enthusiast.
Peterson. L, Renström. P (2001) Sports Injurues: Their Preventon and Treatment; 3rd Edition. Taylor & Francis Publication. United Kingdom.