The Key Ingredient to Exercise Success is Variety

Gwen Harden of Memphis, Tenn., did aerobics and abdominal exercises at home three days a week for eight years. But the interior designer's increasingly busy schedule made it difficult to continue her routine.

"I totally stopped exercising, and I wasn't happy," she said.

Harden tried to resume the program but became frustrated when she saw no results.

She was locked in a fitness rut.

It can happen to anyone, even the most committed exerciser, after an injury or illness, an abrupt change in schedule or simply upon realizing you've done the same exercises for too long with no improvement.

The best way to get over that hump is to shake things up, experts say. Try a new sport, start cross-training by adding a different exercise to your routine or find a workout buddy.

Small changes can make a big difference in renewing your enthusiasm and helping you stick to a program.

"Once a month or once a week, go for a bike ride or play soccer," said Connie Tyne, executive director of the wellness program at the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas. "Add other things so your body will say 'Wow! What are you doing to me now?'"

Harden joined a women's spa in Memphis and hired personal trainer Judy Oros. The two have been working together for three months.

At 53, Harden also had other concerns. She wanted to fend off osteoporosis.

Harden's routine now includes strength training. She uses dumbbells of up to 10 pounds to strengthen her arms and shoulders. She uses up to 110-pound weights on the leg press.

She does 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise on a treadmill or a cross-training machine, which works both the arms and the legs.

"She started out only being able to be on the machines for about five minutes with me coaxing her," Oros said. "She now goes at least 25 minutes."

Oros changes the routine often to keep Harden from becoming bored and to make the workout more challenging.

Harden said she saw improvement and felt better within weeks.

"The first thing I noticed was I lost inches around my waist," Harden said. "I've lost eight pounds. The best thing is that I'm beginning to see muscle definition."

Andrew Joyce Jr. is a personal trainer in Memphis. Joyce said people must eliminate their excuses if they want their programs to succeed.

"The one excuse everyone makes is that they don't have the time. You can exercise around your house and burn calories," Joyce said. "The excuse should never be that I can't exercise because I can't go to the gym or I don't have time."

Joyce suggests using an exercise video or taking a walk when your routine is disrupted.

"If you don't try it (doing other exercises), you'll never know if it will work for you or not," Joyce said.

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