Exercise Smarter, Not Longer

I've never been a gym person. I've tried workout videos like P90X, pilates, using exercise bands and a total gym. Never worked for me long term. Why? I would get bored with it and I didn't appreciate the benefits. I wasn't overweight, so it's not like I needed to loose weight with exercise. Besides, I'd rather be getting my exercise in real life while gardening or playing with my kids. I used to play sports as a kid, so I got my exercise in that way. Then in college, I was in the marching band, so believe it or not, I got a lot of exercise from there and the rest from riding my bike to campus for class. Once I began working full time in a new city, I tried jogging, I tried using the gym at my apartment complex. None of it was appealing, so I put off exercising for years. In terms of physical health, I believe food is 80% of the effort and exercise/movement is 20%. So, I focused on the food. This year, however, I am going to add exercise back into my life. Now what defines exercise? Exercise is when you are exerting yourself; lifting heavy things, sprinting. Something that gets your heart rate up and stresses your muscles. When you are breathing deeply and oxygenating your cells.

 Pushing 50+ lbs of kids in a wheelbarrow gave me some cardio as well as upper body conditioning. Oh, and I got to play with my kids.

Pushing 50+ lbs of kids in a wheelbarrow gave me some cardio as well as upper body conditioning. Oh, and I got to play with my kids.

What are some benefits of exercise to help me motivate myself to keep going? Short term benefits include: losing weight, building stamina, increasing energy and focus, higher productivity, better sleep, higher self-esteem, improved mood, boosted metabolism, and just having fun. The long term benefits include: improved circulation, decreased risks of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, arthritis symptoms and just an over-all better quality of life from a better fitness level. I'm also setting an example to my children from a young age to make their physical fitness a priority in life to maintain their good health.

I was excited to read in JJ Virgin's book, The Virgin Diet, that she recommends burst training. This is a series of movement (~2 minutes) with bursts of exercise(~20 seconds). The whole routine lasts only 20 minutes. Perfect. It would take me over 20 minutes just to drive to a gym from my house. So, I did one of her burst trainings and was huffing and puffing from the sprinting in place (my son, who was about 2.5 years old at the time was trying to do it with me; too cute). Since I hadn't exercised like this in years, I was quite sore for a day or two later and never got around to doing it again. Turns out, for those couple of sore days later, I had made the right choice.

I watched a video the other day about exercise by two biohackers; Dave Asprey and Abel James. The main take-aways I got from it is when not to exercise and why. It all boils down to allowing your body time to heal and recover in between strenuous exercise.

  1. Don't exercise when you haven't gotten enough sleep or know you won't get enough sleep the night following your exercise. 
  2. Don't exercise when you are already stressed mentally (bad day at work, etc...)
  3. Don't exercise when you haven't fueled yourself properly with food
  4. One they didn't mention, but should be here: don't exercise within 3 hours of bedtime as it may disrupt your sleep

Some people may think they have to exercise to help them relax from the stresses of the day. This is where movement comes in. Go for a walk, do some stretching or light yoga. You are putting your body in motion which is very important to your health, but you are not conditioning it (stressing it further) through exercise. Keeping your body moving helps with elimination of wastes from your body. Have you heard of standing desks? One way to always be in motion while at work.

Other people are addicted to exercising because of the good feelings they get, commonly referred to as endorphins. An article I read on Dr. Mercola's website says that it might not actually be endorphins that give you that feeling of bliss, but a compound in your brain called Anandamide. "Exercise also boosts serotonin, norepinephrine and your body's stress response" which is good news for those who have a hard time dealing with stress or anxiety. Start an exercise routine and your mind and body won't have such a difficult time dealing with stressful situations. 

Abel James also had an interesting blog post on the topic where he compares his fitness level, mental alertness and food cravings to different forms of exercise. He has this chart which shows that at some point, there is a peak where exercise benefits a person, but after that point, exercise becomes more and more detrimental. Sorry, marathon runners. Make sure you are running marathons for the right reasons as all that strenuous running can be quite hard on your body, not to mention all the time it takes that you could be working on your diet, social life, family life or giving back to community. And, all that running does burn a lot of calories that need to be refueled in your body, so that could lead to overeating of carbs and other foods that can drain your mental capacity and just make you feel drained. If you do run marathons, I am impressed with your stamina to do so, but I wouldn't make it a life-long thing if you want to lead a long, healthy life. I'm just saying, there's probably a reason an average NFL players' life expectancy is only 50-something.

If you are overweight and begin an exercise routine to help you loose that weight, don't get discouraged if the scale doesn't change much for the first week or two. What is happening, is you are losing weight, but you are gaining muscle mass, so your overall weight stays the same. Don't give up and keep going for several weeks before trying something different, or like I stated in the beginning, look to changing your diet as that is at least 80% of the effort for healthy weight. For me, I am just trying to keep up this new habit until it becomes routine. Wish me luck!

What fun ways do you incorporate exercise into your day? Let me know in the comments!

With love, hugs and smiles, 

Carolyn

References

"Why Exercise and Endorphins Make You Happy" by Dr. Mercola http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2016/01/29/exercise-endorphins-happiness.aspx

"Exercise Better, Not Longer!" with Dave Asprey, by Abel James https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ld6n57Klq7E

"How You Can Lose Fat, Get Fit, and Build Muscle by Exercising Less," by Abel James http://fatburningman.com/how-to-lose-fat-by-exercising-less/