How varied are your workouts? I know I was completely guilty of following what was essentially the same workout routine for years on end. Every eight to 10 weeks or so, I’d pour through an Ironman or Muscle & Fitness magazine and try to piece together another eight- to 10-week workout program for myself. As a fitness geek, this was actually something that I looked forward to and enjoyed doing.

Unfortunately for me and for just about every other self-inspired workout enthusiast I know, this took a lot of time and didn’t lead to a lot of creative variance in my workouts. Mondays were still primarily the days that worked on my chest and my back, Wednesdays were dedicated to shoulder work (because shoulders definitely need their own day) and Fridays were the days that I got my 17-inch pythons ready for weekend display by doing bi’s and tri’s. Due to the fact that I’m an American and we don’t put a lot of emphasis on lower body development, I would throw in some squats or leg work a few times per month but without any real intensity.

This was essentially how I trained for a number of years. Did I see massive gains in my strength? Did I grow to the size of the gentlemen in the magazines I was emulating? Unfortunately, neither happened. As a matter of fact, not a lot happened in any regard fitness wise. My numbers stayed relatively the same, as did my overall fitness level.

Why is this? Why didn’t I add 150 pounds to my squat over those years? Why didn’t my body transform itself the way that it has since starting Crossfit Pacific Coast? Simple: There was no variation in what I was asking my body to do and it adapted accordingly.

CrossFit by definition is “constantly varied, functional movements performed at high intensity.” Each one of those tenants is equally as important as the next in creating world-class fitness.

Here’s an interesting notion and one that all athletes should keep at the forefront of their training and daily life: Your body is perfectly designed to do whatever it is that you do on a daily basis. Think about that. If you sit behind a desk for eight hours a day and work out the same way three times a week for an hour, then your body will transform itself (either positively or negatively) to reflect that output.

Does this mean that you have to train for four hours a day, six days a week to transform your figure and your athletic life? Absolutely not. What it does mean, though, is that changing your workout routine and doing so on a regular basis is vital to your continued growth and development as an athlete and an active human being.

Now you’re probably wondering how on Earth you’re going to come up with three workouts a week that are completely varied yet still effective. Worry not. If you’re not a CrossFitter and have to do this yourself, there are some easy ways to come up with highly effective, variety filled workouts that don’t take a master’s degree in exercise physiology to develop. Remember, folks: The basics of movement and exercise don’t change despite whatever is currently being sold on television.

If you own a simple deck of cards, you’ve got a tool to create all kinds of highly effective workouts for yourself. Here’s a great way to get a solid workout in on the road, in a hotel room or during your lunch break.

» Pick four movements — such as push-ups, squats, jumping lunges and sit-ups.

» Next, assign each movement to a suit in the deck of cards — hearts equal push-ups, diamonds equal squats, clubs equal jumping lunges and spades equal sit-ups.

» Now, grab a stopwatch and your deck of cards and go to work. Cycle through the entire deck performing the number of repetitions that the card assigns to each movement as fast as possible. If you pull the 4 of Clubs, then do four jumping lunges as fast as you can and pull the next card. Face cards count as 10 reps and aces are 11 reps. Pick something particularly evil to do if you pull a joker, such as 20 burpees or a 400-meter run just to spice things up a bit.

Since we’re talking about varying your workout routine, you can do this same workout three times in a week with four completely unrelated movements every single time, and you’ll get far more benefit than the standard Monday-Wednesday-Friday split that most people in your gym are doing. Vary your workout radically and watch your fitness levels follow suit.

Have at it.

— Traver Boehm is co-owner and coach at Crossfit Pacific Coast, has a master’s degree in Chinese medicine, is a licensed acupuncturist at Alki Wellness, and a nutrition specialist. He can be contacted at