Give Me The Fish (GMTF): If you are hitting plateaus, starting to feel like you are stuck in a rut during your training, or you just wrapped up a hard season, it’s time to do a 180-degree turn and change your routine. I don’t just mean switching in one exercise for another. I mean picking a new sport, trying a new skill, and forcing your body to adapt by giving it something new to adapt to. Improving yourself is a mental and physical game and both can be burnt out. Change your training routine and see the results.
For those of us that care to make a difference in our lives, are dedicated to staying healthy, and understand the importance of staying fit, training is for life. This means that our training spans years and not days and decades and not weeks.
Throughout all this time, at some point, you should feel the need to change your training routine or take a different fitness direction. If not because of the boredom and your loss of focus, but out of the necessity.
And, if you haven’t, you might want to ask yourself why not?
Whether you are a competitive athlete in the offseason or just the average Joe, there are huge benefits that you can gain by deciding to change your training routine and incorporating new skills that are typically outside of your wheelhouse.
This is especially true if it compliments your training goals.
Why Switch It Up?
There are a lot of reasons why you should change your training routine, both mentally and physically.
If you have been training in a specific field for a long time it can be mentally exhausting to keep training for the same event month to month, day after day, and year after year.
Switching it up not only gives you a mental break from that focus, but it can also give you a physical advantage by training muscles that you typically don’t work, and learn skills that can assist and accomplish your long-term goals.
And often, we plateau in ways we don’t even recognize, thinking “this is how it is”. But not only is that usually not true, but this narrow-minded line of thinking also holds you back. Whether that’s a bench press number, sprint time, or a better dyno when climbing.
Learning The Transition
I have transitioned between major skill sets and athletic activities for a large portion of my life. Starting with having to bounce between running a PFT in the Marine Corps, which is all running and endurance-based conducted January through June. And, the CFT which is all strength and sprinting based conducted between July and December.
This compounded with competing in endurance events like Ironman’s, 16-mile obstacle courses, and training for strength on my own time.
All of these things are not practical to get done in one 16 week workout plan.
So, just like with anything else, you break them up into periodic training cycles, that allow you to focus on that one area and build into the next.
This would often be three-month cycles, going from endurance in January, February, March, and then transitioning to strength-based workouts in April, May, June, and then focusing on more athletic and skills-focused training sessions for July, August, September.
Then moving into sprint-based highly anaerobic exercises to close out the year and then that would bring me back to endurance events.
I did something along these lines for probably over 10 years. This is not a recommendation to do something like this.
But, there were extremely distinct advantages that these 180-degree shifts gave me over others, not only in performing and training but in the speed of recovery and in my mental well being.
But Why Change Your Training Routine?
Bodies adapt, this principle is the foundation of training. But, they only adapt to the stimulus at hand. Which means, they adapt to the bare minimum.
They do this because anything more would cost your body more resources to uphold.
Remember, your body is smart and has adapted across thousands and thousands of years of human evolution.
Through all this evolution, your body has developed its physical capabilities to work in synergy to produce a more efficient and better operating machine.
When you change your training routine 180 degrees and you start to develop areas that have been neglected over the years. And, start to build up your supporting structures. These supports are what can give you an edge.
Building muscular endurance builds capillaries and increases oxygen flow by increasing the strength of your heart and lungs.
Building strength, products against injuries by ensuring that your tendons and joints are protected by a muscle mass that can take way more abuse than they ever could.
It also lets you pick up heavy things and put them down.
Building up your power makes you more efficient in how you actually perform movements, trains your body to perform better in end ranges. And, lifting heavy things explosively looks cool.
The moral of the story, while the rule of specificity still applies, it doesn’t mean that the rest of your physical capabilities are worthless.
It just means they’re performing a supporting function rather than a primary function.
Just like how the walls of your house make up the primary structure, the supporting beams are just as necessary to make sure it doesn’t fall down. Same works for your body.
And that’s just when you talk about the physical aspects you gain if you change your training routine.
Mentally this allows you to still be engaged, and be motivated to learn new things.
Half of our ability to improve rapidly when we start something new is our ability to hone in on new and interesting things (like “Ooo Shiny”).
You might even find that when you change your training routine, you experience what some call “newbie gainz”.
How To Start
Now if you’re a competitive athlete, it would not be intelligent to just randomly pick something and jump into it.
You can, you only have one life to live. So, if you’re just doing it for fun and you want to go straight from ultra marathons to try and compete in a powerlifting competition, go for it.
But, if you were trying to break new records, or take a place in an event, you can use this transition to your advantage to make sure that you change your training routine in a way that you come out stronger and better going into your next in-season.
Really sit down and find out what you can build that will compliment your current weaknesses and help build you up in ways that will help you perform better when you get back to your sport.
If you’re a downhill skier, maybe that means making a change to your training routine that incorporates powerlifting so you can build up your legs.
Or if your thing is football, maybe it’s entering a track league, to allow you to work on your sprints.
And if you’re a runner, maybe it’s signing up for obstacle courses like the Spartan Races.
Regardless of which way you go, when you change your training routine, make sure you understand what the outcome is going to be.
It all starts with you figuring out what your end goals are for your in-season and then determining how your out-of-season goals will augment.
It’s Not All Fun And Games
There are some risks with doing a 180-degree transition when you change your training routine.
Some of this is actually due to your high level of performance.
You heard that right, your superior ability can give you some dangers.
If your goal most of the year is in the gym and it’s focused around lifting barbells and getting stronger and bigger in specific movements, your strength will apply outside the weight room.
But your end ranges were built to support a fixed position and can cause serious problems when you go to perform.
What I mean by this, is that you have trained your body to operate in a very specific movement, and it has built itself to perform very well in that specific way with a lot of power and strength.
Your body does not lose the power and strength when it operates in a different environment, but it does lose the coordination and the protection it’s built up by going outside of that normal mode of operation.
This is something you need to watch out for when you change your training routine to a drastic degree.
Case In Point
A number of years ago I rode my bicycle across the country.
It took about 3 weeks, to include having to take a break due to killing off the nerves in my hands (turns out your wrist shouldn’t be leaned on for weeks at a time) and infected sores on my ass.
In this short amount of time, I went from being a bicycling amateur to being able to put some serious miles behind me, turning my 100 plus mile days from an awful slog, to an easy morning ride.
When I got to the other side of the country, I decided to go back to running.
No joke, I took two steps and I landed flat on my face because my quads had been come overpowered in those few short weeks. My body just didn’t know how to compensate for this because I literally hadn’t run since before my bicycle trip started.
All propel and no catch.
And my case isn’t anything unique (maybe the falling on my face part is). You can see this from those that power lift in the gym and then they hit the track and rip a hamstring.
They’ve developed a large amount of strength they don’t know how to compensate for it in the real world.
The same happens when you have a runner step on the basketball court and they break an ankle.
Because it’s so prevalent, it’s important to have a transition.
The transition is where you don’t actually operate at your highest levels when you switch to the new sport. This period is to teach yourself not only what your limits and bounds are, but you are also allowing the rest of your muscles and ligaments to catch up.
Don’t Be Afraid To Change Your Training Routine
Training in your offseason, is just as important as training for your in-season, but it can be more fun and more satisfying.
All it takes us a little bit of patience, a little bit of practice, and of course some planning to make it all work out.
Remember at the end of the day your body is an entire system, with every part playing an important role in what you do. If you lift in the gym that doesn’t mean your slow-twitch muscles are useless, and if you run long distances that doesn’t mean you’re fast-twitch muscles are useless.
When you want to specialize, it doesn’t mean you drop everything else, It means you do a split 80-20 or 90-10 or something along those lines.
This is part of that 10 or 20, and that 10 or 20 can actually help you outperform and push that 80-90 to new levels.
You don’t need to take just my word for it, you can look at athletes all across the world, that talk about how they’re training really turned around when they started integrating weight lifting or running or swimming or HIIT into their training.
Moral of the story is, if you want to be better, have a better life, and get back to enjoying your time in the gym or on the court, try to switch it up. You’ll be amazed at what kind of benefits you can gain when you change your training routine.