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Why Variation is Important to Staying Injury-Free

It's always good to mix things up. Changing up your workouts is an easy way to keep things fresh and stay motivated on your fitness journey. Many people end up doing this simply because they get bored with their current workout but there's also an overlooked benefit to adding variety; it helps you remain injury and pain-free.

When we perform the exact same workout over and over again, the risk of pain or injury increases. This is because we stress the same tissues and movement patterns continuously. By adding variation we incorporate different muscles, which can decrease the risk of overuse injuries. We also have to remember that the nervous system feels safe when it has new or novel stimulus. Using different movement patterns is an easy way to provide this new stimulus and ensure that the nervous system does not begin perceiving threat in certain positions or movements, causing pain. Check out a further explanation of this concept in my blog post "Posture is Not the Cause of Your Pain" using the house alarm analogy.

There are a number of effective ways to begin incorporating variety into your workouts starting today. Run or walk on a trail instead of on the paved street; the uneven ground, roots, and rocks will force different muscles to turn on and help support you. Make sure to ease into this type of training instead of immediately going on a full throttle run through the woods. This will allow your body to adjust to the new stimulus over time and prevent a rolled ankle or other injury. Perform HIIT circuits using a number of different movements such as: butt-kicks, jumping jacks, high knees, air squats, sprints, etc. Use multiple ways of lifting in the same plane and switch every few weeks or workouts (example: barbells, dumbbells, body-weight). Mix in some strength work if you're a runner.

These are all great ways to increase your variability and help you stay injury and pain-free. One of my mentors even mentioned that he tries to add as much variability as he can when he runs marathons nowadays. He doesn't run them for time anymore so instead he mixes things up every few miles. He will run backwards for a little bit, he'll swing around street signs, and run up on the edge of the curb all in the name of variability. The main takeaway is to just have fun with it and find what works for you. Incorporate as much variability as you can to keep your fitness journey as healthy and pain-free as possible. If your workouts as causing you pain or discomfort, come check out what we have to offer at Rise Above Physical Therapy.

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