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4 Ways to Turn Your Fitness Weaknesses into Strengths

In life and in fitness, we’re all naturally better at some things than at others. Thanks to genetics, certain types of exercise could feel easier or more enjoyable to you (people with more fast twitch muscle fibers, for example, have an easier time with activities like HIIT and sprints, whereas people with more slow twitch muscle fibers will be better at distance running).

But just because an activity isn’t your strong suit doesn’t mean you should skip it all together. In fact, “if you want to see dramatic changes in your fitness level, you do need to do things that you're not very good at or predisposed to,” says Pat Davidson, M.D., Director of Training Methodology at Peak Performance in New York City. “People that get a little better train their strengths, people that see dramatic gains train their weaknesses.” And, hey, you may even end up loving it! We’ve rounded up four common “weaknesses” and asked Davidson how to confront them head on. (Plus, improve your exercises with these 50 Must-Know Fitness Tips to Score Your Best Body.)

Weakness: "I always do the same exercises"
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If you always stick to the same type of workout (even if it’s great for you otherwise), you can end up with muscular imbalances. In other words, certain muscles get short and tight, while other muscles get long and weak—and that can lead to injury, not to mention plateaus in your fitness progress. For example, many runners and cyclists have weak hamstrings and super strong quad muscles.

Make it your strength: “To ward off muscle imbalances, incorporate variety in your strength routine and also in life (try not to sit all day or stand in the same place all day),” says Davidson. Try doing your go-to exercises in different positions. For example, try this Forward Bend Biceps curl instead of doing it from an upright position. Or, try doing your curls on a bosu ball to add instability and recruit more muscles.

Weakness: “I don’t want to ‘bulk up’ so I skip strength training”
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Well, that’s a shame, since you’re missing out on the metabolism-boosting, bone-building benefits of pumping iron. “Women shouldn't be afraid of big movements with weights like squatting, deadlifting, pressing, and pulling,” says Davidson. “You won't look like a body builder unless you do lots of sets and reps and you eat like a bodybuilder with lots and lots of meals throughout the day.”

Make it your strength: Start by picking up weights just two pounds heavier than you normally lift and only doing the amount of reps you can handle while maintaining perfect form. Then, try this Heavy Weight Workout next time you hit the gym.

Weakness: "I'm not a high intensity person—I'd rather log long, moderate workouts"
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“Interval training has been shown to improve heart health, muscular force production, and burn additional levels of fat. Higher intensity interval training seems to be able to cause a bigger bang as compared to low intensity long distance exercise,” explains Davidson.

Make it your strength: Begin with longer intervals (like 3 minutes on, 3 minutes off vs. shorter 30-second bursts with short rests). “Most people are more likely to stick to a regime that starts with longer time period, lower intensity intervals as compared to high intensity short intervals,” explains Davidson. Listen to this HIIT Workout Playlist for an extra motivational boost.

Weakness: “I'm not a runner”
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First know this: “If you don't need to run, and you don't like it, you don’t have to do it,” says Davidon. Running is great for your heart, but so are many other cardio activities. The key is doing something that gets your heart rate up and the blood circulating, so pick a cardio activity you really like (like cycling, swimming, rowing, or hiking) and do it for a prolonged period of time, says Davidson.

Make it your strength: If you still want to start running (say you signed up for a race with a friend, or just love all the awesome gear for runners), start slow and gradually build up, advises Davidson. “A lot of people hurt themselves when they start a running program because they do too much too soon.” Add just 10 percent to your weekly mileage at a time. Here’s a Beginner 5K Training Schedule to get you started!

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