The Value in Variety

spices in spoons

This week we were excited to announce the winners of bande's January bingo competition. Two members got complete blackouts (one in their first week!) and 12 bingos. The bingo board had a variety of different challenges, encouraging members to try different formats, instructors, and times of day. The team selected this game as a community initiative because we not only wanted to introduce a fun challenge to kick off the new year, but also to encourage our members to spice up their routines and move out of their comfort zones.

Why is variety important in a fitness routine? Recent research from NYU indicates that varying your routine can actually help you stick to your weekly physical activity goals or milestones. Researchers found that adults who were categorized as “highly active,” meaning they do more than 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week, did at least two different types of activity in the past month. Those in the most active group did five different types of workouts in a month.

The reason? Variety also increases enjoyment and decreases boredom, which makes people more motivated to follow through with a plan.

That said, trying new kinds of physical activity is mentally difficult, and so as adults we are often reluctant to put ourselves back in the position of being an awkward novice. As we grow older, many of us lose important skills that are necessary for sustaining cognitive development, skills that Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck calls a “growth mindset." She defines it as the belief that abilities are not fixed but can improve with effort; a commitment to serious rather than casual “hobby learning”; a forgiving environment that promotes what Dweck calls a “not yet” rather than a “cannot” approach; and a habit of learning multiple skills simultaneously, which may help by encouraging the application of capacities acquired in one domain to another. What these elements have in common is that they tend to replicate how children learn. Given that learning new physical fitness skills can improve longevity, it's important to find ways to push ourselves out of a comfort zone.

But don't take our word for it — we thought we would share more from some of our bingo winners about how they approach diversifying their fitness routines, what keeps them at it, and the benefits they receive from mixing it up.

Read more for interviews with members Marianne Aiello (Blackout bingo), Lauren Evans (Blackout bingo), and Shari Schmeltzer (bingo finalist).

Describe your typical weekly fitness routine.

Maryann Aiello: I never miss class with Bergen at least three days a week for Barre and Cardio Kickboxing back to back. Twice weekly I do Strength & Conditioning with Edell and Lucian to build lean muscle and strong bones. Amanda for Slide and Sculpt to get those hard-to-reach abs and obliques and for her sunshine therapy. Dance cardio with Andrea for the best music and happy hour party at the Friday 5 pm class. Reset and Recover classes with Ariel, Nef and Julie. Weekly walks outside with a friend for sanity. 

Lauren Evans: I workout five to seven days a week doing a variety of classes. But I also like to listen to my body — if I am not feeling it, I try not to feel guilty about taking a rest day. Rest day is important!

How do you stay motivated to work out so often?

Aiello:  I feel better when I move — physically, mentally, and energy-wise. Work and family obligations are demanding and this is a safe outlet to lose myself. And to find that I can usually accomplish more than I imagined. 

Evans: Working out is essential to both my physical and mental wellness. If I am not feeling motivated, I think about that endorphin high and how much it benefits me!

"Working out is essential to both my physical AND mental wellness."


Why is variety important in your fitness routine?

Evans: I find that it's easier to make progress if you sort of get tricked into doing hard things. So taking a variety of classes is a really easy way to do that. 

Aiello: Yes! Muscle confusion and a variety of programs shakes up stagnant energy and, like my profession, I abhor anything rote. If I’m not accomplishing and achieving, it isn’t benefiting me. What is uniform is the instructors’ ability to keep the workouts challenging while form is paramount. I could choose just about any [bande] class or teacher and walk away with a valuable lesson; Nicole today made me aware that thumbs are up for a hook [punch]. My arms are now so tired!! 

"It's easier to make progress if you get tricked into doing hard things."


In terms of fitness, do you plan your week or just take every day as you go?

Aiello: I try to plan and if work or life gets in the way, I also try to make peace with it and look to see if I can make a substitute. I’ve found some great teachers, like Todd, by having to change up my routine. 

Evans: If I am good about it I do the whole week in advance. But I'm not perfect, so I have certainly signed up for a class five minutes before. 

Have you found a certain mix of fitness modalities to work best for you? If so, what is it?

Evans: I generally like a mix of boxing and strength classes. Boxing is a great mix of cardio/fast twitch work and strength allows me to slow down and feel the burn! Both of those classes also have a big focus on form and technique, which the perfectionist in me loves. 

Shari Schmeltzer: At first I was a barre/HIIT girl. Now I take cardio sculpt and glide several times a week. Sometimes one after another. They are game changers. My core has gotten stronger and my legs have leaned out. The classes are always challenging. I also added a Sunday stretch class to my routine. I literally melt on my mat. bande is a one stop fitness shop for me. 

Have you ever worked through an overuse injury? If so, what was it and what did you learn?

Aiello: I pulled my hamstring water skiing because I refused to let go when I wasn’t up on my timeline. I’ve learned sometimes I have to let go of an immediate success because the conditions are out of my control. And sometimes less effort brings more rewards! Don’t try so hard. 

Evans: Not overuse necessarily, but many other injuries. Generally recoveries require a mental reset of your standards and an appreciation for small milestones. 

"Recoveries require a mental reset of your standards and an appreciation for small milestones."


How important is it to you to try new types of fitness? 

Evans: So important! bande instructor Mindy Lai introduced me to boxing a few years ago. I was SO hesitant to try, but it literally changed my life. I went from no exercise to building it into my daily routine. 

Aiello: I like to try new things but will only stick with them if they are better than my “old” workout. I like to keep 80 percent of my program familiar to work on improving skills while adding variety to keep things fresh. Amanda’s Slide and Sculpt is akin to Pilates on a reformer. While I absolutely miss my reformer, my frisbees make me balance on my toes and challenge my muscles even more. And my cat, Bijou, likes to walk under my body to make sure that I don’t come down to my Knees and cheat myself. She is Amanda’s sous assistant. 

It’s hard to be the “new person” in a class. What advice do you have for those starting something new?

Evans: Don't be afraid to mess up. Even the experts were beginners once!
Aiello: Yes. Yes. Yes. Be friendly to other people and hopefully they will reflect that kindness on you. And if that doesn’t go well, challenge yourself to push harder, get lower and kick higher — you’ll find your people! Also, no classmate is really watching you, we are all focusing on the workout and not the tiny boxes. Keep your camera on!
Schmeltzer: I used to hve to travel to class all over the city to take classes. I was never able to fit in a class and a half. It’s so convenient now. For new people, it’s easy to try now especially because you are in your home, your safe place. Nobody to judge — just do you!

Read more:  New Yorker Magazine, "Is it Really Too Late to Learn New Skills"