We all want to know what we're getting into when we begin a workout. How long? How far? How many reps are we doing? But, too often, we know exactly what our workout will be because we've been doing the same thing for months, if not years. It's stagnant. The problem with sticking with a regular routine is that you get too good at it: Your technique gets too efficient; your body knows exactly what to expect and how much effort is required. The first time you do some new exercise, you're sore and tired in a way that you hadn't been before. But do that same exercise for three or four months, and you have to do twice as many reps and with more weight to feel as though you've accomplished anything.
From time to time, you have to mix it up. You don't always get to know what to expect. I've got guys who train with me and say, "Well, what are we doing today?" And I don't tell them. Because we never train the same way twice; there's always going to be some variation. But keeping it varied requires a high level of creativity. (Basically, you've got to make stuff up.) Of course, not everyone has me – or any trainer – to shock their system, but you can mix some creativity into your routine to keep it challenging and keep yourself engaged. Here's how:
Mix balance with weights.
When we work out, we think about pushing ourselves muscularly or cardiovascularly, but why not also challenge yourself neurologically? Balancing on one leg or incorporating exercise balls into the workout – whatever weird variations you can think of – forces you to focus on the position because you've got, like, six things happening simultaneously. You just get fried from it. Use the exercise ball to challenge your stability, and not just for core work and push-ups. Instead of doing the same bench press you always do, lie back on a ball, and press dumbbells. Rather than doing your curls in front of the mirror, sit down and do them on a ball. Do a one-arm shoulder press while sitting on it. Implement the ball into everything. Believe me, if you're strong, that'll be like learning it all over: All of a sudden, you've got yourself some work.
Credit: Getty Images