Today I caught myself thinking: I really would not mind taking a few days off from my training. I have not been feeling burnt out yet there is a consistent soreness, fatigue, and lack of motivation, My ambitious pursuits keep me moving very consistently. Do not get me wrong – I love my soul mate workouts – CrossFit and long distance running. But I also love making progress and feeling refreshed and happy post-workout. Does your exercise program make you happy?
Should It Hurt or Not?
Neither of them comes easy for me. As an absolutely unfit person in the past ( and a smoker for years), I went through some significant transformations. I could not lift and carry a 30-pound suitcase; I’d faint after a mile run, I could not make it up 4 flights of stairs without feeling like I was dying etc. Now it is not hard to run for a couple of hours at an easy pace, or deadlift more than my weight in pounds, and I mostly enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and strength my body gets after working out. While I lived in California, a long run along the ocean would get in me in a Zen-like state, and I would come home energized and centered. Long hikes were awesome too! They were hard at times, especially where the elevation was involved, but mostly fun.
The Best Approach to Exercise
Here in Georgia, my long runs or any training outside turned into a constant battle with the heat, humidity, and my body not recovering from the previous battle/workout that week. I almost want to skip running till it gets cooler and becomes fun again. CrossFit is a different business for me. The workouts never last longer than 20-30 minutes, sometimes you go all-out for just a few minutes at a time, sometimes you pace yourself, and sometimes you just do a few sets of an exercise to see where you stand, and make a few muscles stronger. It is fun.
If you are not a professional athlete or obligated by any other terms ( well, I have signed up for a marathon I really wanted to run once in my lifetime lately), you should do FUN not hard workouts. If you are still walking funny from last night’s class, you may consider doing something easy. You may hurt a little, you may hurt a lot, but according to Pareto principle, 80/20 ratio would be great. Speaking of which…
80/20 or Food/Fitness
Mind over matter, food over fitness. That is right. You do not have to go to the gym today. Just stay active and eat well. Exercise is less important in weight management than your nutrition Heyyy, that is not what the media and government recommend! I know, I know. Bear with me.
I won’t deny: you need to be active. Most Americans have a sedentary and lazy lifestyle that significantly affects one’s health, weight management, overall wellness, etc. On the opposite and extreme side, there are people you see at the gym often. On the treadmill, pounding those miles hard, on the elliptical for hours, at the weight room doing just another dozen of reps for the same muscle. I must admit I used to be one of them. It leads to chronic fatigue, usage of glycogen instead of your stored fat (triglycerides), and overeating/overtraining patterns.
How to solve this?
Clean up your pantry, get some fresh vegetables and meat, and stay active every day in small amounts. Yes, there are other things you can do. You can lift weights a couple of times a week, sprint once in a while if you can, or have a few 30-60 minutes of easy cardio not going about your maximum aerobic heart rate. This would be the best prescription for your fitness routine.
Maximum aerobic heart rate calculation:
180 minus your age, include or deduct extra points based on the calculation here: (Dr. Phil Maffetone explanation)
So why should you go against traditional recommendation?
Why Chronic Exercise is Ineffective:
- Working out above your max aerobic heart rate for an extended amount of time is inefficient.
These workouts will mostly burn glucose, not fat, disrupt your hormones and insulin levels, leave you hungry and tired. It is overly stressful for your body. While you might assume “working out harder will burn more calories and bring more results”, it is actually all about “working out smarter”, staying under your max aerobics HR, and only sprinting once in a while to get your heart rate going.
- Causes stress and injuries.
If you are following your training plan to the letter, you won’t listen to your body being inflamed post-workout, and you will keep pushing. This can cause injuries or traumas that could have been avoided if you rested more or trained less intensively.
- Stops being fun in a while.
Although this wonderful mix of endorphins, dopamine, and testosterone might leave you feeling like a Superman ready for new endeavors, hang on, chap. Take a break. When you engage in a pattern of chronic exercise being such a diligent person, you can also lose the fun part. When it feels like work, stop doing
- Increases your appetite.
You are burning more calories, and then you will want to replenish them, and stay a bit lazy because “I’ve worked out” syndrome. Calorie intake gets out of control, and you get an excessive amount of fat stored when it could be used for burning if you did not eat that donut! Perpetuum mobile of exercising more ->eating more -> exercising more etc. will not maximize your gains.
- Skipping rest will bite you in the you-know-what.
You should only work out when you feel fresh, energized, and right as rain.
5 Signs You Need to Change Your Exercise Program
- You work out hard 5-6 times a week.
- You are prone to injuries. This can be both, the cause and consequence of chronic exercise patterns.
- You often consume more calories post workout, because, you know, you burned a lot.
- You push yourself through soreness because ” it was scheduled in my training plan”
- You feel unmotivated, discouraged, or stressed at the thought of an upcoming workout.
You can also find quite an interesting article written by Mark Sisson here:
Well, don’t hurt yourself, friend, and don’t forget to play. Take your dog for a walk, go for a swim, play some volleyball, or just bounce on a trampoline. I am off for a slow run.