Walk into any boutique studio and you’ll likely notice that fitness streaks are all the rage these days. There’s 30 day dance barre challenges, committing to 40 step classes in 60 days, and self-imposed running streaks. These go-all-out experiments may seem like a great idea in theory, but what are they actually doing for your bod? Glad you asked.
Let’s start with the bad news: “Streak challenges are often geared toward beginners or someone who doesn’t usually do that workout often,” says Mike Robertson, C.S.C.S., president of Robertson Training Systems in Indianapolis. “That can be a problem. If you haven’t cycled in five years and suddenly you take a Spin class almost every day for a few weeks, that fast ramp-up in volume is going to lead to overtraining.” In other words, without giving yourself proper time to work up to the challenge—say, starting with two or three classes a week before taking six or seven—your body may start to break down and become fatigued, weak, and in some cases, injured.
Plus, even low-impact or low-weight-bearing activities (think: barre, Pilates, yoga, etc.) can cause issues when you do them every day. “Often times, putting your body in the same postures and positions can lead to pain and stiffness, increasing your risk for more serious injuries, like a disk herniation,” says Robertson.
Ouch. So…what are they good for then?
“The biggest benefit is that these challenges usually get people into the habit of regular exercise,” says Robertson. “And we all know that once you’ve turned an activity into a habit, it’s much harder to break the pattern.” So basically, if you’re someone who tends to skip a sweat sesh for weeks at a time, a streak might be the perfect way to kick-start a routine.
Not to mention, visiting the same studio or doing the same workout over and over amps your confidence. Think about it: Remember the first time you went to kickboxing? You probably spent half the class worried that someone would notice your hooks and uppercuts looked exactly the same. But after your eighth class, you owned that punching bag.
Of course, you’ll see some physical changes too. Robertson says your weight-loss and muscle-strength results really depend on the type of workout you’re doing, how much effort you put into each session, and how you complement your program outside the gym or class (diet, sleep, alcohol intake, etc.). You will, however, definitely improve muscle memory. “The sheer repetition of a specific activity will help your body master it,” he says. “It’s like practice. You’re constantly refining those neuromuscular pathways, so you become more efficient in the skill.”
Bottom line: An exercise streak will most likely do more for your mind and motivation than your body—but for most of us, that’s half the battle. If you’re going to do one, warm up to the activity (do it two or three times a week for three weeks) before starting. Be sure to listen to your body—if you feel something telling you to stop, stop. Oh, and do what you can to squeeze in one rest day a week—some super-strict challenges just aren’t worth the risk.
If you want to mix up your workout routine grab the latest issue of Women’s Health for a free 14-day ClassPass.
Source: Women’s Health
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