Adding variety to your gym routine

By Heather Nielson
I would bet that most of you who exercise on a regular basis have been doing the same thing for quite awhile with little change. Unless you’re an elite/highly competitive athlete with a very structured program given by a coach aimed at improving specific energy systems to match your race demands, you are probably doing basically the same thing week in and week out. If you find yourself in that category, you may have also found that your fitness has plateaued. The human body is an amazing machine that responds to physical stimulus rather quickly resulting in fitness gains but it also adapts to those demands over a 4-6 week period after which a change in either volume, intensity or type of exercise is needed to reach another level of fitness. If your main form of exercise is running or cycling then maintaining that basic endurance format is fine and increasing volume and intensity by small amounts each week will result in fitness gains over the long term. However, if you want to see even more fitness adaptation without huge changes in time and intensity, then add some variety in core, movement and plyometric exercises, plus it makes your normal work-out routine more fun! You’ll see even bigger gains in your fitness so long as you keep consistent with all the rest.
It won’t take much more time either on top of your basic aerobic exercises each week. Challenging your core, stabilizing muscles, becoming more proficient in your form and movement will only make you a better endurance athlete as you will certainly find that each step or pedal stroke you take is that much more efficient, stable and economical which will enable you to go further, faster!
I have a long list of core and movement exercises that I pick from 3-5x/week that I do on top of my other training regimen that adds about 15 minutes but since the list is long and I choose a different set of exercises each time, the variety is almost endless! This keeps my body constantly adapting to the neuro-muscular patterns which only increases my efficiency as an athlete.
Below is a list of ideas for core, movement and plyometric exercises with videos or links to help explain the movement patterns. Try a group of 4-8 exercises, completing 2-3 sets of 10 reps for each exercise to start off with at the beginning of your normal routine to help with activation.
Jump rope: Simple and fun! I always warm up with jump rope for as long as I can. Great activation and gets you ready for the rest of your work-out!
Land mines: One of my favorites that I do year round. The key to this exercise is to power from your legs first and use the momentum to carry the bar up over your body. In other words, don’t lift the bar with your upper body first, use your legs first. I’ts a great plyometric and rotational core exercise.
Dead bugs: The key to this one is maintaining 90 degree angles in the non-moving knee and hip and keeping your lower back in contact with the floor through the entire movement pattern. 
Single leg squat: The key to this exercise is making sure your knee doesn’t go past your foot at the bottom of the squat and engaging your core and glute through the entire movement pattern.
Monster walks with resistant band: The key to this exercise is moving your knee and ankle at the same time in a parallel fashion and engaging your glutes and core through the entire movement pattern.
Supermans: The key to this exercises is maintaining a flat back and not letting your hips drop to one side
Plank: A classic. Try to go for two minutes! The key to this exercises is keeping a flat back with a 90 degree bend at the elbows. Want to add variety? Lift one leg up and put it back down; then alternate.
Medball pike: I love this one. You need to activate your entire core and body to maintain a proper position and stability.
Side plank: Another variation on the plank theme. Planks are great for full body stability and core activation. If you want to add variety, lift the top leg off the bottom leg for a second and repeat 5 times.
Dynamax ball double knee strike: You can do this against a wall without a partner. Great upper body and core exercise:
Dynamax ball hammer rotations: You can also do this against a wall behind you without a partner. Again, a great upper body and rotational core exercise:
Dynamax wall ball slams: Go as fast as you can! These are fun and are a great rotational core exercise:
If you’re interested in hearing about another topic, feel free to reach out! I’m also available for coaching and guest posts on training, racing and women’s cycling. Twitter & Instagram @ridempowered