I have to confess that I’m lazy. My health and appearance are important to me, but when I pick up on the scent of a shortcut—especially when it comes to exercise and eating right—I don’t think twice about following where it leads.
So where did my cheating lead me this week?
Sidestepping exercise plans.
It’s no secret that setting goals, Googling them a bunch, and mapping out a plan is a fast-track to fitness results at the gym.
Except there’s one little problem. Your brain called, and here’s what it thinks about your meticulously-mapped-out fitness routine:
Don’t get me wrong, structure and goals (and a working knowledge of fitness equipment) are key to your exercise ROI. But your well-oiled fitness routine? Radio silence on the brain front.
And what happens when your brain thinks your workout routine is a snoozefest?
Boredom. Fatigue. Fewer reps. More time at the smoothie bar. A whole lot of nothing.
When your brain gets bored, your productivity nosedives. Sure, you methodically ramp up your cardio or intensify your circuits every 2-3 weeks. But if your mind is bored with your workout, it doesn’t even matter whether your body is being challenged.
There are also plenty of us who don’t even try to switch up our routines. We get nervous about trying a new sport, worry we don’t have the stamina for Final Phase Fat Loss, or fear making a fool of ourselves in a Zumba class.
But author Arthur Plotnik explains that “unpredictable stimuli” excite the nucleus accumbens in the brain—the same part that lights up with sugar consumption.
Even if it makes you uncomfortable, even if the result is pure, apocalyptic failure, your brain loves to be thrown off balance.
Why else would people sign up for Wipeout?
It’s a fact: your mind is hardwired to adapt to new stimuli. Not just every 2-3 weeks, but every day. You may feel sensitive and vulnerable, but you aren’t—and your brain is begging for you to realize this and give it a nice big piece of curveball cake.
Or a small piece.
Even just a bite.
It doesn’t take much to fire up your neurons.
The first step is recognizing when your brain is suffering from exercise buzzkill. If you’re dragging at the gym, no, it’s not just you being a spoilsport. You’re not just having a bad day, and you don’t just need to suck it up. What you need is to give your brain something new to figure out.
We spend so much of our time asking what our bodies need from exercise, when it’s our brains that really hold the cards to a killer workout. Now you know, so shaking up your routine is going to be easy.
You don’t have to dive headfirst into a routine you aren’t ready for.
You don’t have to face-plant into a mud bath on national TV. (Suckers.)
It can be as simple as adding a new workout playlist or cycling jersey to the mix, switching to a different treadmill than your usual one, or turning left at the end of your street instead of right on your morning jog. Or try challenging your body with different workouts each day that target different hormones, like the ones found in Final Phase Fat Loss. Muscle confusion will help ignite those neurons.
The good news is that your brain will register just about anything new as a pleasant surprise.
Start satisfying your “nucleus accumbens” with easy changes to your workout, and exercise could become your new guilty pleasure.
Give your brain some sugar! Tons of ideas (from pros like the founder of Core Performance) at our U.S. News column:
- New Apps: Download one of Ryan’s favorite fitness and nutrition apps
- New Activities: Try barefoot running or hula-hoop cardio
- New Toys: Get fitness splurges that are worth the money
If you want a workout that will keep you off-balance at every turn and mentally engaged, Click Here!