How to Get Creative and Engage New Muscles

By Mia Barnes – October 1, 2021

Maybe you’re a dedicated gym rat who never misses leg day, or maybe you’re a newbie just now finding your momentum. No matter where you are in your fitness journey, you might need to shake things up a bit, especially if you don’t want to hit a plateau and lose motivation. 

Luckily, you don’t have to abandon your daily routine — simply enhance it with new activities to work new muscles. This change of pace can even help work your brain that might be used to going into autopilot when at the gym. Here are some workout tips and ideas to help you get creative and beat that burnout.

1. Revamp your rest days

Hopefully, you don’t perform the same exercises every single day. Doing so can put you at risk for injury. Your muscles need rest days to heal the microscopic tears in your muscle fibers that occur during exertion. Only time can work the magic that results in a stronger, healthier you.

Performing the same activities each day can also lead to overuse injuries. For example, people who play tennis daily might develop lateral epicondylitis, aka tennis elbow, an inflammation of the protuberance lining the bones that make up the elbow. Rest days are important to avoid injuries of overuse for any sport or activity. 

However, taking rest days doesn’t necessarily mean resigning yourself to nonstop Netflix binges. Use this time instead to take on gentler activities that move your body in different ways. Stretching, meditating or exploring an idea from the list below. 


2. Enjoy the aquatic life 

Heading to the water opens up a whole new world of exercise possibilities. Swimming laps is far from your only option. You can do nearly any land-based workout while submerged, taking the stress off your joints and making movement more comfortable if you have a chronic pain condition like arthritis or fibromyalgia.

For example, yoga on a paddleboard will challenge your core balance muscles in ways you never encounter on land. If you adore dancing, the graceful movements of water ballet are an ideal way to spice up your typical workout.

Even simple activities like walking and jogging work your muscles differently when you do them submerged. Pool walking might reduce your speed by a third to a half, meaning you’ll cover fewer miles in the same 30-minute workout. However, you’ll add an element of resistance to your routine, giving you a strength bonus you don’t get on land.

3. Mix up your mode of transportation

Are you one of those parents who idles in the pickup line every day? Do you circle the parking lot at work or the store looking for a spot? Sometimes, distance and time restraints make it necessary. However, why not consider walking or biking your child to school or yourself to work if you live reasonably close?

Cycling is excellent cross-training if you typically run or hit the weight room. It can become your primary form of cardiovascular training and strengthen your bond with the outdoors and with your body. 

4. Dance like nobody’s watching

Dance is a fantastic form of exercise that encourages you to engage new parts of your body and free your creativity. Research shows this activity ranks best when it comes to preventing Alzheimer’s disease. The combination of physical movement while following the steps encourages neuroplasticity.

The best part is that you can get started for free. Signing up for ballroom dancing lessons with your partner is one idea if you have the extra cash. However, you can also tune in to YouTube on your smart device and follow the steps in your living room.

5. Form new pretzel shapes

Flexibility and mobility are often overlooked components of total fitness. However, you could save yourself from future frustrations and injuries by working now to elongate your muscles and connective tissues.

Why not shake up your fitness routine by adding yoga? If you’re a diehard athlete, challenging forms like Ashtanga push your body to new limits. Gentle, relaxing yoga practices such as Yin can soothe your muscles after tough workouts and make the ideal rest day activities.

Performing the same movements day after day leaves you plateaued at best and injured at worst. Get those creative juices flowing and give the typical parts of your body a break while stretching and strengthening the rest.


About the Author

Mia is a health and wellness writer and the editor-in-chief at Body+Mind. She specifically enjoys writing about women’s fitness as well as mental health-related topics. When she’s not writing, Mia can usually be found reading poetry, taking a dance or cardio class or hiking.


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