Are You Exercising On Cruise Control?

Darren Ellis

Darren Ellis MSc, coaches youth, world champs and regular people in real world, effective strength training and nutrition to improve fitness, sport performance and body composition.  Check out his old school gym at

In my job as a fitness coach I meet lots of people who workout regularly. It is often a point of pride with them (and rightly so), that they can recite their program to me off by heart -get up and do 50 pushups and situps every morning, go for a 5km run, swim 40 laps at the pool, etc…... But whatever it is, it never changes. Day in, day out, the same walk, cycle, swim or gym routine; at the same pace, distance or resistance.

This is a problem.


Consistent progression is one of the keys, if not the ONLY key to getting fitter, stronger and leaner.  The act of exercise alone will not increase your fitness. The body is an incredible survival machine, and as such, can adapt to any stresses placed on it very quickly.  If you subject it to the stress of a bout of exercise, the next time you do that bout of exercise your body will have strengthened and built muscle and connective tissue, increased red blood cells and produced more aerobic enzymes to deal with it. 

So if you repeat that 5km run or 50 lap swim or 3 sets of bench press with 80kg a second time, or a third, or a tenth without changing anything, you are wasting your time.  You almost shouldn’t have bothered.  I say almost because any exercise is better than nothing, but in today’s busy world, why the heck would you want to waste part of your valuable day achieving nothing?  I know a guy who has walked the same one hour course along Tamaki Drive every morning for over 15 years, and he wondered why he was gaining weight.  He had just wasted the last 14 years, 364 days of exercise.  If your workout isn’t hard to do anymore you need to adjust the workload.

Your body adapts to the stress you put on it. If you don’t increase the stress it won’t continue to adapt. That is what people don’t realize. They see the results they got by doing X so they continue to do X and expect results to continue. You need X + 1, then X + 2 etc.  Don’t get caught only adding more time to your workouts however. Without intensity volume will only take you so far.   If you always bench press 3 sets of 10 reps with 80kg, you have to push for 11 reps, or 85kg, or less rest between sets. Anything to make them more difficult than they were the week before. If you go for a 3km walk, change it to a jog, then a run, and then try sprint intervals. Same for the swimming; swim faster, use a more challenging stroke, or jump out of the pool every so often and do some pushup, situps, burpees...
Take your workouts off cruise control; always increase the intensity, always challenge yourself.

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