Q: I’ve been exercising since the first of the year and getting good results, but my workouts are getting stale. I’m definitely ready for the next step but not sure what to do. Any ideas?

A: Whatever style of training you choose, your muscles will eventually adapt and progress will level off, referred to as a plateau. When this happens, workouts usually begin to feel more like a ”been there, done that” experience rather than something you are excited about.

Interval training is one way to take your fitness routine to the next level. Interval workouts involve breaking up your aerobics/cardio sessions into two or three segments, each with increasing effort/intensity. An example would be to walk for a minute, then jog for a minute and finally, run or sprint for a minute, and then repeat this cycle for the duration of the workout.

If using an elliptical, treadmill, bike or other piece of cardio equipment, options would be to vary the resistance, speed and/or incline for each interval throughout the session. At the end of the workout, finish with the lowest intensity interval as a cool down.

This type of training can have major benefits over regular aerobics. Interval training helps to recharge the metabolism, and more calories can be burned in a shorter amount of time. Depending on degree of effort, it is possible to get the same caloric burn with a 15-minute interval workout as you would in a 30-minute conventional aerobic workout. Interval training can be tailored to fit almost any form of cardio activity, from machines to jump roping, to swimming to climbing stairs.

Why pay so much attention to staying fit? As the saying goes, use it or lose it. While there is no need to be fanatical about exercise, our bodies are meant to be moved regularly and on a daily basis. Doing so prepares you to deal more effectively with what life may throw your way. Lifting and pulling muscles of the upper body include the back, shoulders and biceps. The legs, abs and low back are needed for nearly all daily movement, making it important to keep them strong.

Safety tips: Those who have medical issues, particularly heart or joint problems, should get clearance from a physician before beginning or altering an exercise program. Individuals with little to no prior training experience should always start slowly and build strength and endurance gradually. Once you’ve gotten into the swing of things, you can up the intensity of the workout so that it still feels like a good challenge.

To avoid injury and burnout, be sure to allow for adequate time between workouts for recovery and repair. A general rule of thumb is to allow 36 to 48 hours of rest before working the same muscle group if workouts are intense.

— Marjie Gilliam, Cox Newspapers