Why Variety Will Increase Your Fitness Exponentially

In a day where we have so many different options to choose from in the world of fitness, many of pigeon hole ourselves into one specific modality of training:

Runners run…typically a lot.

Yogis do Yoga…again, a lot.

Crossfitters do crossfit…once again, a lot.

And all of these groups stick with these modalities because they enjoy them (or at least that should be why they’re doing it. If you’re doing a type of exercise because you believe it’s the only way to achieve your goal, just be sure that you’re not failing into a comfort trap), which is important. After all, we should enjoy whatever exercise we’re doing.

However, going to extremes can be a risky proposition, especially when it comes to improving our fitness. For instance, if you ask a runner if they’ve been injured in the last 3 months, the answer will likely be “Yes”. Same would go for the crosfitter and, yes, same would likely go for the Yogi.

Understand, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be a runner or crossfitter or yogi. I only point out these groups because they are the most relatable. Each of these modalities can be wonderful additions to all fitness regimens when utilized correctly.

What you’ll see soon enough is that human beings are not built to do the same thing over and over again. And, 9.9 times out of 10 (I can argue 10 out of 10, but I understand there are always exceptions to the rule), when we do things to the extreme, meaning doing a lot of one thing and little of everything else, it will end up hurting us in the long run (no pun intended).

Why Humans Are Built for Variety

If you take a good look at the animal kingdom, you’ll find that almost every species has some ability that they excel out, with their other abilities being mediocre or subpar.

Take monkeys, for instance. Monkeys are great climbers. They can swing from tree to tree without any fear or thought of falling. It’s almost unbelievable if you actually watch one move. Because of their long arms, long fingers and toes, and apparent lack of fear of heights, monkeys are built to be climbers.

What monkeys are not good at is running. Because of their anatomical structure, monkeys are not able to propel themselves forward quite as well as a quadrupedal animal could. This is why, when monkeys get in trouble, they climb.

Cheetahs, on the other hand, are great runners. Cheetahs are the fastest land-bound animal on the planet, being clocked at speeds of up to 75MPH (I say land-bound because some birds are insanely fast. Falcons, for instance, can reach speeds of 200MPH+…insane!). Cheetahs use their speed to hunt. Without speed, they would likely starve to death.

What cheetahs aren’t good at is long distance running. On average, a cheetah can maintain a high speed (not maximum speed, mind you) for about 1,600 feet. Considering a mile is 5,280 feet, that means these speeds can only be sustained for about a quarter mile. This is why cheetahs have to sneak up on their prey.

What Does This Have to Do With Humans?

I give these examples to show that, with any ability, there is a species that excels in that area. Whether it’s climbing, hiking, sprinting, long-distance running, jumping, bounding, you name it, there is an animal that is built for it.

Ironically, the species that seems to be the ruler of the animal kingdom, has no special physical abilities. As a matter of fact, it’s actually pretty mediocre at all them.

And, yes, that species is Homo Sapiens.

Us VS Them

If we look at many of our physical feats from strictly a human perspective, they can seem pretty astounding. But, if we compare them to some out counterparts, these milestones don’t really stack up.

Usain Bolt runs 100 meters in 9.58 seconds and 200 meters in 19.19 seconds. That’s crazy.

A cheetah, on the other hand, has been clocked running 100 meters in 5.95 at a top speed of 61MPH. Really, they were just jogging.

The fastest mile ever recorded is 3 minutes and 43 seconds. That’s an average of 56 seconds per quarter mile. I can’t imagine keeping up that pace.

An Antelope, conversely, was tracked running a mile in 1 minute and 25 seconds.

In swimming, Michael Phelps is king. He has the world record 200 meter freestyle at 1 minute and 44 seconds. I would sink 200 meters in that amount of time.

A sailfish can swim this same distance in under 10 seconds.

The Swiss Army Knives of Movement

I don’t put these numbers up here to show you how inferior we are compared to other animals, or to show you some cool statistics on speed (although, running a mile in a minute and a half is impressive).

These comparisons are really to show that humans physically aren’t that great at anything in the grand scheme of things. However, what we are great at is being pretty damn mediocre at a lot of things.

Maybe we can’t run the farthest or climb the highest or swim the fastest, but we can do all of these things to a supreme mediocre extent (I don’t know if that makes sense, but let’s go with it). Put another way, we may not get an A+ in any of these area, but we get C+ in almost all of them. 

This is why I like to call Homo Sapiens the Swiss Army Knives of movement. Because we can climb a little and run a little and swim a little and jump a little. We’re generally pretty strong, have decent power, and can be flexible. Not as strong as a guerilla, but not as weak as a mouse (no offense to the mouse, of course).

Building Variety into Your Fitness Plan

From this perspective, we start to understand why it becomes important to have variety when it comes to pursue higher levels of health & fitness. Since we’re not built to be the strongest or built to be the fastest or built to swim the furthest, it may not make sense to for us to only stick to training modalities that make us faster or stronger or swimmier.

Now, I’m not telling you that you have to quit running if you enjoy running. Or, that you have to stop doing Yoga if you’re a Yogi. What I’m also not saying is that specialized athletes should water their training down (this is a completely different topic. In short, specialized athletes make a sacrifice on being a healthy human. Great long distance runners have to run a lot, and get injured frequently because of it. This doesn’t mean they should stop running so much. It just means they have to incorporate healing and prehab strategies to a greater extent. I digress.).

What I am promoting is that, if you are someone who does one specific form of exercise a lot, you start to integrate other movement modalities into your routine.

At Thriveology, our primary form of training is resistance training. We use body weight and kettlebells and medicine balls and other equipment to help our members lose weight or get stronger or move better or feel better.

However, we make sure to integrate other ideologies into our training as well. For instance, we build stretching and mobility into all of our programs. Because too much resistance training with out purposeful mobility work can lead to tightness and stiffness.

Also, we’re sure to incorporate a cardiovascular component in everything we do. Because it’s not only important to have strong, sexy looking muscles. It’s also important to have a strong heart and cardiovascular system.

So, if you’re wondering what to do next, it’s simple. If you are runner, you probably need strengthening in certain areas and loosening in others. So, incorporate some strength training and some Yoga into your life. 

If you’re a Yogi, you need to be able to have strength in those ranges of motion that you’re building and have a strong heart to support it. So, throw in some resistance training a couple of days a week and go for a run and brisk walk on a regular basis.

Unless you’re an elite athlete, you should be shooting to maximize your body to its full potential. You can have a focus in one area or another if that makes you happy. However, for maximal health and longevity, building variety into your program is going to be key.

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