Five Fast Fixes for your Fitness Program

I've been teaching dance-based fitness classes forever. Well, almost that long. Way before Zumba existed, I was trying to draw non-dancers into danced-based exercise classes. Why? Simply because I couldn't make a living teaching dance to adults. Children, sure. But anyone who wants to teach dance to grown ups has to trick them into attending. Hence catchy and intriguing names like "Zumba." "What could that be?" "Sounds like a Caribbean drink made from rum and parrot feathers." "Yum! Let's check it out."

Let's say you've already found your favorite fitness program. Maybe you like to jog or lift weights or do yoga. Whatever it is that you do to stay fit, I'm betting you can improve on it with just a few easy tweaks. Not twerks, but tweaks. Twerking could be dangerous and should be avoided.

1) Are you using your entire body? Some exercises only emphasize the upper or lower body. Running, for example, employs a repetitive motion which only uses a few select muscles of the lower half of the body. On the positive side, running burns tons of calories, uses almost no equipment (except maybe running shoes) and requires no gym membership or facilities. If you are an avid runner, you might want to balance all that lower body activity with some upper body strengtheners. A few push-ups, pull-ups, and burpees would be a great start.

2) Are you emphasizing only one facet of fitness? Let's take jogging as our example. If you jog a long distance at a set pace, and never switch things up, then you are mostly working on endurance. This is certainly valuable, but you aren't gaining strength, speed, flexibility, balance, or coordination. An excellent all-around fitness program should help you make gains in all these aspects. Add some hills, maybe an obstacle course, try some sprints, jog backwards and sideways, and take some time to stretch out when you finish a workout.

3) Do you use the body's full range of motion? Keeping your movements small, or doing everything halfway, severely limits the development of the muscles. Some examples: doing half-squats instead of full squats; baby push-ups where you lower your body a few inches instead of all the way to the floor; biceps curls which include only a small fraction of the complete arc. Not only do you just work a small portion of the muscle, instead of the whole length of the muscle, but you also miss out on the potential for stretching and elongating the muscle while instead creating short, tight muscles. To fix this problem, pay attention to how far you are able to go in each exercise. Work slowly to build both strength and flexibility by moving through a greater range of motion each time you workout.

4) Do you sign up but neglect to show up? This may sound odd, but it is not uncommon for people to register and pay for an exercise class and then never attend it. Or possibly attend one single class and never return. It may seem obvious, but signing up for a class will not make you fit. Reading about weight-lifting form and technique will not make you stronger. Dreaming about having a six-pack will not chisel your abs. There is only one way to get fitter. Get up and move!

5) Are you bored? Even the most brilliant and creative fitness classes might, on occasion, get a little old. If you've been doing the same exact workout for months or even years, it might be time to switch things up. The body acclimates fairly quickly to any workout that doesn't change. Try running a different route, or better yet, try biking or rollerblading instead. If you're a dancer, try hip hop or salsa instead of ballet. If you are completely comfortable in your workout, that's a sure sign that you aren't making progress. Find a new challenge!

Leave a comment below if you've found the perfect fitness program that meets all your needs!