So you’ve been exercising regularly for a while, but you start to notice that the fitness gains you experience are no longer as great as when you first started. This is because you now have to work harder to challenge your stronger body.

If you are in this situation, it’s time to change up your routine by increasing the intensity, duration and/or the frequency of your work out. However, there are ways of making this transition safely. Here are some tips to avoid getting hurt or burned out.

1. Assess your current fitness level
Know your current strengths and weaknesses by determining:
• The exercises that you’re already doing
• How hard you work with these exercises
• How often you do them
• How long you do them

2. Set new goals
Next, Find out where you want to be. Be specific and realistic with the goals that you set. For example, you might want to be able to run for 45 minutes instead of 30.

3. Do more
The best way to improve your fitness level is to increase intensity of your exercises. Remember, the fitter you get, the harder it becomes to feel challenged and see results from your exercises. Pushing yourself to do more will help you get the most out of your workout. If you decide to exercise at the same intensity, you’ll have to spend more time or exercise more often to achieve the same fitness effects. In building up your fitness, you can first increase the frequency (number of days a week) of your workout. As you become more fit, increase the duration of each session, then finally the intensity.

Here are some ideas on how to increase the intensity of your workout:

• Walk briskly or start running. The faster you move, the more work you’ll do.
• Add inclines by running or walking on hills, or by increasing the treadmill grade.
• Increase resistance by gradually adding more weights to your lifting routine, or increasing the difficulty level on exercise machines.
• Cross-train with activities that challenge other parts of your body.
• Perform high-intensity interval training by interspersing short bursts of high-intensity activity like 10-second sprints with low- to moderate-intensity activity, like walking.

4. Don’t overdo it
Overdoing your exercises increases your risk for overuse injuries. Increase the intensity, duration and frequency of your exercises gradually, and remember to include time for rest and recovery.

Also, don’t forget to congratulate yourself once you’ve reached a new level of fitness.

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