Mixed Bag Workout: Switch it Up

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By Ismay Parker, Certified Personal Trainer at Team Speed Colorado- Centennial
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People who exercise often think that if they walk or run, work with resistance, or participate in cardio training regularly, they are in good shape. Not enough people understand that the most effective way to exercise takes more than burning calories. It is more than moving in one pattern or style. A comprehensive exercise program should include a “mixed bag” workout approach. A mixed bag workout program includes more than one exercise style, no matter how diverse the style is. Since variety in an exercise program is needed to keep the body balanced, a mixed bag workout is a great solution.

Many people participate in one kind of training or sport, and think that because they do it all the time, it is enough to stay in shape. This is a misconception; variety is key in maintaining optimal physical function and performance. A “mixed bag” workout approach challenges a large variety of muscles in different ways over the course of the week. It creates a phenomenon also known as “ muscle confusion.” It’s like a box of chocolates for the body, it never knows what it is going to get. The human body needs that variety of movement and changing intensity to stay- or become- more versatile in its ability to best prevent self-injury, have optimal functional movement, and perform physically challenging tasks.

Rewind to 10,000 years ago when humans had the “do it yourself” mentality. Our pre-historic ancestors had to build shelter, gather and hunt their foods without the aid of sophisticated technology. They had to travel, fight, defend and protect. Survival of the fittest was the reality. The physical demand on the human body and its ability to move was critical to survival, the challenges humans faced were diverse and intense. The human genetic make up has not changed much but human lifestyles have. Today, modern lifestyles too often do not include the kind of diverse physical activity the body was built for and needs to be in optimal condition.

One of the easiest ways to become well versed in mixed bag workouts is to use the help of an expert. Lack of time, money and motivation makes many people cut down on their exercise time and expenses. This is a grave mistake. A person’s health should be number one on the priority list of life. Having a designer cup of coffee every day at the expense of a training session with a coach is not an intelligent choice. Hiring a personal trainer for 12 weeks can turn an exercise rookie into an independent and educated mixed bag buff.

Every exerciser should know how to create a mixed bag workout program. Personal trainers can help, educate and motivate clients to be the best they can be and can put just about any person on the right track to better health and physical performance. Most trainers recommend physically challenging the body five days a week with 30 minutes being the bare minimum. The 30 minutes can be broken up in two 15 minutes, or even three segments of 10 minutes. The key to complete fitness is to change it up, and a personal trainer can help with that. For youth the minimum exercise recommendation is an hour a day.

To think that it is good to “kill” oneself for an hour every day is another misconception. Most fitness workouts yield the greatest gain when they are performing between 60% and 80% of maximal effort. Ending up not able to walk the next day can trigger resentment to working out. Who wants to come back for more of that? The majority of the workouts should leave a person feeling worked but energized, unless there is a different, specific goal attached to the workout.

The mixed bag approach finds activities that mimic the way our ancestors moved. It attends to things such as: plyometrics, balance and stability, flexibility, strength, agility, cardio- respiratory/vascular training, relaxation and power training on a regular basis.

Make sure to be safe and consult a health professional before changing or starting a workout program.

Another critical component of a mixed bag workout is to be present in the moment! Working out while watching TV and allowing the body to merely go through the motions is not a real workout. The way a body activates its muscles is largely dependent on the mental and physical effort of the person. The deeper a person is involved in what he or she is doing, the more intense the response will be. It’s not only what you do; often it’s how you do it that makes the difference.

Use the seasons to change up workouts. A true mixed bag program uses the elements, the environment, and all that it creates. Spring, summer and fall in Colorado are great times to take a workout outside. Winter is great to take advantage of the “ Winter-sports” of the Rocky Mountains.

If the weather doesn’t fit the workout, indoor group classes such as Les Mills’ Body Combat, Body Pump, or a dance/cardio class like Zumba is also a lot of fun. Why not try a small group or personal session with a trainer once a week? Why not throw in a yoga class or Pilates session once in a while? TRX and Cross Fit classes are also very popular. Activities like climbing can now be done in- and outside and challenge the body in a way that is unlike anything else. Other options are to go to the pool and swim twice a week, learn to play tennis or take a martial arts or ballet class. How about spinning or biking? Have you ever gone white water rafting? There is so much opportunity for activity and training in Colorado and so many choices to change it up.

A mixed bag workout is not only important for the body, but it keeps working out fun. Single style workouts can become boring and stale, not just for the body but also for the mind. If variety is the spice of life, then a mixed bag exercise program can do the same for one’s workout experience.

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