Believe it or not exercise can contribute to your weight loss struggles! The wrong kind of exercise or to much of it can make you feel terrible and not allow for the results you want. You see them, (or maybe you are one of them) the people who spend 1-2 hours on the treadmill 5-7 days week and never seem to get any smaller and/or they plateau…sometimes the opposite even happens. Now that is frustrating.
The prevailing thought here is the more you exercise (which often goes along with eating too little) the more calories you burn and therefore the more weight you lose. Problem is our bodies are not a simple math problem. That might work initially but it rarely if ever works long-term, it’s not sustainable at all. Who wants to be hungry all the time? Who wants to feel weak? Who wants to just suffer through their workout day after day staring at a mind numbing TV? Not eating enough and exercising too much is a recipe for disaster not to mention you just might tear the head off of anyone who gets in your way. This behavior can tell the body hey you’re starving me so I’m going to start conserving fat and any other available resources I can and hence the plateau or even weight gain. This is something programmed into us from times of starvation and famine which is hardly the case now.
A few symptoms of over-training:
- Lower performance (you feel way too tired during and/or after working out)
- Trouble sleeping
- Aching joints/inflammation
- Frequently get sick
- low libido
For those who don’t have a weight issue yet still exercise like their training for the Olympics all the time, they still need to be careful as well. Along with the above mentioned side effects constantly stressing out the body this way can put undue stress on the adrenals as they churn out the hormone cortisol which helps us to deal with and manage external and internal stress on the body.
It’s a wonderful hormone and very effective unless we are always calling upon it to help us in the stress response. If it stays high enough long enough not only will you experience symptoms of over training but other, more serious side effects of adrenal dysfunction and fatigue. Cortisol is best released in emergency, flight or fight and/or other adrenalin pumping situations after which it then goes back to normal levels. Not only can over training mess with cortisol but any stressors, especially chronic background stress that is always present can have the same effect.
The latest science on weight-loss, fat burning and fitness in general shows that it is best achieved through burst fit or high intensity interval type training. In fact studies have shown that as little as 5-10 minutes of this type of activity can produce as good or better results than going at a steady pace for 60 minutes for example. I have began to experiment with this and love it. I have a favorite hill near where I live and I run up it resting every 90-120 seconds or so until I reach the summit (so 3 times). Then I walk down and do it again! It feels great and only takes about 30 minutes to complete including warm up and cool down (which actually takes longer than the workout itself) AND I get to feel like I’m in the movie, “The Last of the Mohicans”.
The same type of idea can be applied to just about any discipline including running, swimming, cycling, hiking, rowing, yoga, weight training, etc. Another favorite of mine is to do a circuit of 4 different strength training routines in quick succession. For example pull-ups, push-ups, squats and dead-lifts rotating from one to the other and only stopping when necessary even if in the middle of a set. When I feel I can continue at the same intensity then I pick up where I left off. Again this does not take very long (about 12-15 minutes) and has the same effect as running up my hill. It’s all about quick, short bursts of very intense effort.
Too much of anything including exercise tends to be bad for us. Past a certain point, our bodies simply do not adapt as well and we will create all kinds of chaos if rest and recovery are not made as much of a priority as working out. This chaotic state can be just as bad as eating poorly and sitting on your ass on the time. Just listen to your body, as long as you feel good go for it but be very mindful of what your body is trying to communicate to you.
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