After you’ve been doing the same routine for a few months your body adapts to it and you don’t make any further progress. This is true even with varied, ambitious programs like P90X; sooner or later you stall out. Find new exercises in books and magazines, on TV or on the Internet. Reviews of DVDs on Amazon can show you where to look. Some are written by trainers and serious fitness buffs and describe in detail their own experiences with a particular DVD.
2. Increase the frequency.
When I was doing Ab Ripper X once a week I saw no change at all. Once I got up to three times a week the results were so impressive that my husband wanted to learn too. For general fitness, the trainers I follow recommend an hour a day five or six days a week, doing different routines on different days.
3. Increase the intensity and measure with a heart rate monitor.
For years I listened to the people who said that moderate exercise is enough. I spent hours walking at a brisk clip and never saw any benefits. It wasn’t until I bought a heart rate monitor and got my heart rate up high enough for about 30 minutes twice a week that I reduced my body fat percentage and resting heart rate. For me, “high enough” means intervals averaging 85% of resting heart rate. Other people may get good results with less exertion – you just have to see what works for you.
4. Assess your strengths and weaknesses; work more on your weaknesses.
I used to have a very sedentary lifestyle and spent much of my day bent over a book. I arrived in my fifties with not much upper body strength and was getting little pains in my shoulders and arms. When I started lifting weights the pain went away and my posture improved. I even think upper body work may be good for the heart because it brings circulation to that part of the body.
If your abs, for example, are already strong, you may not get any benefit from doing crunches, even hundreds of crunches. You need to find other exercises that feel hard and will work the muscles in different ways. For abs, my current favorite is the Brook Benten core workout that came with a contoured kettlebell I bought recently.
5. Do all types of exercise.
Exercise isn’t just workouts with weights and cardio; it also includes stretching, work on balance, plyometrics or explosive movement, and isometric exercise. A good exercise program includes all of these areas. Over time you will find that one type of training helps you with another. For example,, stronger abs mean better balance.
6. Pursue a sport you enjoy.
Once you’re in better shape you’ll be able to get back to activities you may not have been able to do for years. For me, that was roller skating, actually rollerblading. I like to go out on some of the paved trails in different parts of town. Linking exercise with fun makes it more likely that you will stick with the program.
7. Know when you need a break.
An essential part of improving fitness is getting enough rest. This includes getting enough sleep, but it also means taking time off for a day or two when you feel you’ve been working too hard. Step back, take a breather, then get right back to it.