Best Ways to Add Challenge to Your Exercise Routine

January 31, 2022
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Fitness

When starting out or returning to exercise, consistency is important. Focusing on consistency helps us to form the exercise habit quicker. For those looking for strength and fitness gains this year, this doesn’t mean a mellow exercise session is wasted time! Once exercise is part of your lifestyle, increasing the challenge of the exercise routine may be necessary to unlock your fitness potential.

Those who are serious about strength and fitness improvements must embrace challenge.

Two ways of modifying the level of challenge in your workouts include longer durations or increased intensity

Extended workouts

Extending a workout can improve endurance, and that may be crucial for an athlete’s sport. Marathoners, triathletes, and other distance competitors require longer workouts to build the endurance they need to compete in their respective events. 

If you are seeking a higher level of challenge and opt for longer workouts, there are some downsides to consider. Of course, the amount of time could impact the rest of your schedule. Perhaps more importantly, when we complete longer workouts, they tend to be lower intensity than shorter workouts. We simply can’t sustain heart-thumping exercise for hours at a time, so usually intensity decreases as workout length increases. 

Compared to workouts that reach high intensities, low intensity workouts are less likely to deliver the exercise high. This wellbeing boost helps to sustain the exercise habit so it may be important to prioritize!

 

The fast twitch factor

Even if you are an endurance athlete who enjoys low intensity workouts, consider mixing up the intensity. Lower intensity workouts have a major pitfall: They fail to activate your fast twitch muscle fibers. You have slow twitch fibers used in low force movements and fast twitch used in very high force movements. At every age, these fast twitch fibers indicate how much power we have and we lose them during periods of inactivity

Intervals offer periods of higher intensity

When we opt for interval training, we endure shorter periods of higher intensity. Between those challenges are periods of lower intensity exercise or even rest. This approach offers specific benefits. 

How it feels

There is no denying that a higher intensity interval presents a challenge. You’ll experience heavier breathing, higher heart rates, and a need for recovery. But the advantages are also undeniable!

Interval training has experiential advantages compared to longer-duration workouts. Although the perceived exertion is higher during interval training compared to longer continuous-intensity workouts, studies on user experience find that shorter, more intense workouts are preferred over time. Randomized trials suggest that our initial enjoyment is higher for intervals compared to continuous-intensity exercise. This interval preference and enjoyment continues to increase for the initial six weeks.

Conclusions

For the active individual, intervals can increase the challenge. They can help us break out of boring exercise routines, and many find they enjoy this approach based on published studies. This may seem counterintuitive, because intervals can be difficult. Our affective (mood) responses influence how we feel about ourselves, and the mood boost is typically better after a workout that demands more of your effort. 

Sticking with any exercise routine is difficult over time. The advantages of interval training spurred the creation of a Habit Tile within Treo’s Habit Builder. The Habit Tile is specific for intervals, though members can also keep those longer workouts by including the Habit Tile for how much time they spend working out.  This allows Treo members to work on fitness goals using diverse workouts. The Sprint Intensity interval encourages higher effort for short bursts of time. Unique to each user, it reflects any number of intervals they want to aim for through Treo’s customizable platform. Guidance for how to start is also included based on the member’s selected health goal.

 

As Treo’s Global Wellness Researcher, Karlie uses recent research findings to support healthier daily habits. Karlie earned her doctorate in Neuroscience and Behavior and bachelors in Health and Exercise Science.