In my roles as a fitness trainer and healthy lifestyle coach I frequently talk to my clients about the importance of cross-training and eating a wide variety of healthy foods each day.
Cross-training, or the inclusion of a number of different types of exercise in your fitness plan, confuses your muscles, prevents boredom and reduces the likelihood of repetitive strain injuries.
Similarly, including lots of different colors, textures and food types in your diet ensures that your body gets all the nutrients it needs, keeping you healthy and providing you with the energy you need to get through your busy day.
Clearly, variety in both fitness and nutrition is good! Yet despite the benefits of a varied diet and exercise routine, many of us are more successful at reaching our health goals when we limit our options and stick to a schedule.
How can we reconcile the two? Why not plan your variety?
I’m fortunate, that in my job as a group fitness instructor, my weekly schedule includes teaching a variety of class types; spinning, step aerobics and muscular endurance training (lighter weights, lots of reps). The days that I do each type of workout are rigidly scheduled. Typically, I add an extra couple of pure strength training sessions in the gym (heavy weights, few reps). Lots of variety, but a schedule that I religiously adhere to.
In the kitchen, I’m also fairly consistent (some would say ‘boring’ ) in what I eat for breakfast, lunch and snacks. I have several options for each meal that I swap out from day to day.
- Breakfast is always either overnight oats with fruit (berries, banana, apricot, pear or apple) and nuts or nut butter (almond, peanut, cashew or pumpkin) or eggs with leafy greens (spinach, kale or swiss chard; all from my kitchen garden) and sauteed veggies (onions, peppers, mushrooms or tomatoes).
- Lunch is a salad with protein (chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna, shrimp or eggs) the specific ingredients vary with what’s in the fridge (and what needs to be eaten before it’s past it’s prime or picked before it bolts!).
- Snacks are either fruit and nuts (only a handful) a whey protein shake or a homemade protein bar.
- Dinner is always some sort of lean protein and a bunch of veggies, either steamed, roasted, stir fried or served in a salad.
By choosing from standard options I know that I’m meeting my daily protein, fat and carbohydrate goals. By switching up the specific ingredients in my standard options I know I’m getting a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
Again, planned variety.
Knowing ahead of time what my day will look like in terms of exercise and nutrition helps me keep my health and fitness goals on track. For me, planned variety is the spice of life.
Do you keep a strict exercise and nutrition schedule?
Do you plan for variety like I do?