5 Signs You Should Slow Down Your Workout

You wake up tired, yet you still push yourself to go to that 6 a.m. Spinning class. After all, you’re trying to foster healthy habits. But according to Mark Allen and Brant Secunda, the authors of Fit Soul, Fit Body: 9 Keys to a Healthier, Happier You, those high-energy workouts could be doing more harm than good.

“High intensity equates to high stress, even if there is a part of it that feels good to a person,” explains Allen. “In small doses this is fine. However, as a staple of your exercise [regimen] it causes the negative effects of stress hormones to set in and can lead to lack of motivation, depression, lack of mental acuity, irritability, and injury.” He adds, “Slowing down from exercising at high intensity helps the body to gain fitness in a way that is sustainable over time and that is low stress.”

Below Allen and Secunda share five telltale signs you should slow down your workout routine.

SIGN #1: You’re feeling burned out.
Pushing the envelope in your exercise will always lead to burnout over time. So drop the intensity down to a level where you end the workout feeling much fresher than when you start. Also, listen to your body. If you feel discomfort, or if you feel like you have try really hard to keep the workout momentum going, slow things down to a point where you are able to look at the world around you and feel a sense of enjoyment in your workout.

SIGN #2: You lack a good night’s sleep.
You fall asleep easily but wake up feeling like you were run over by a truck. You keep waking up numerous times in the night. You feel big dips in energy and sleepiness during the day. If you suffer from any of the above, it’s an indication to take it a bit easier in your training. Along with swapping heart-pumping cardio sessions with low-impact workouts, try cutting back on caffeine, especially in the afternoon. Replace that coffee pick-me-up with a short walk outside. It will help you get through the rest of the day, and it will help you sleep better at night.

SIGN #3: You’ve had sudden changes in weight and appetite.
Rapid weight loss (or gain) as well as any fluctuations in appetite levels could mean your body needs time to recuperate from any high-intensity activities. Slow down your workout, up your protein intake, and reduce carbs (especially in snacks). Opt for almonds instead of cookies, or crackers and hummus instead of chips. This will help regulate blood sugar as well as give your body more of the building blocks it needs to repair itself.

SIGN #4: You have body pains or injuries.
Sore muscles are normal, but any sharp or chronic pain is a sign that your body has reached the limit of what it can take. Stop trying to set a personal record during each workout, and reduce muscle and joint stress with easy to moderate exercise. Also try a new activity if one is causing you some discomfort. For example, if a knee hurts when you run, try cycling or swimming instead. It may not be your first choice of exercise, but the variation will give an ailing part of your body some extra time to recover.

SIGN #5: You have an elevated resting heart rate.
Pay attention to your heart rate when you wake up in the morning. If it reaches five (or more) beats above normal, this is usually a sign to take things down a notch. On top of reducing your exercise effort try drinking some extra glasses of water throughout the day. This will help to reduce another cause of an elevated resting heart rate: dehydration. Staying hydrated is especially important in the spring and summer months when the heat can make workouts even more challenging.

Reposted from theahhmoment.blogspot.com

Levels of Exercise

One common decision people make on a daily basis with their exercise is the amount they will do. The old government recommendation use to say we need 20 minutes three times per week for good health. They have changed that and now suggest 30 minutes per day to ward off chronic disease, 60 minutes for good health, and up to 90 minutes a day for those trying to lose weight. A 90-minute workout for some might be like a climb up Everest, but for others that is just their warmup. A triathlete training for an Ironman will do a 5-hour bike ride on the weekend without blinking. How does that level stack up on the overall health meter? Let me give you the Fit Soul, Fit Body thoughts on all of these levels.

One of the goals for most people who exercise is to either maintain a healthy weight or even lose some unwanted pounds. And to do that, we need to activate the fat burning mechanisms in the body and keep them firing day to day. Research suggests that doing moderate cardiovascular exercise where your heart rate is elevate for a minimum of 20-minutes will keep the fat burning engine set in the “on” position. This is a minimum, however. To really drop weight through exercise, it can mean doing 60-90 minutes of exercise most days of the week to really shed the pounds.

That may be an amount that is out of your realm. If it is, you can employ a simple technique throughout the day to supplement whatever amount of exercise you are able to put in. You ready for it? It’s called “Standing Up”. Yep, it’s that simple. We have an enzyme in our body called lipoprotein lipase. It is an enzyme that helps us burn stored body fat. If a person is inactive for even one day this enzyme’s activity is reduced by a whopping 94%!

Keeping this enzyme activated and burning fat requires standing and moving around. So fidget away those unwanted pounds with a number of short walks throughout the day, by carrying things from one spot to another, by adding in a few trips going up and down stairs or just about anything that breaks up the kind of day many people find themselves in where they have a statue-like gaze at the computer screen for hours on end. Even if you do exercise the minimum governmental recommendation of 30-minutes per day, by adding in lots of little trips around the office, the house, or walking in a park where you engage the large muscles in the legs and gluteus area, you have a much better chance of making positive body composition changes.

For longevity purposes, there is a strong correlation between burning at least 300 calories per day through using those large muscles and living a long life. This equates to about three miles of walking daily. Those who live the longest AND have the best overall health seem to up that amount to at least an hour a day of exercise. But the exercise benefit curve does top out at about three hours per day. Those who engage in lots of endurance athletics and work out more than about three hours per day end up with immune system suppression, which can lead to illness. Then if the exercise is at high intensity, if done for too long of a period of time the person can actually lose lean muscle, have depression, lose motivation, have very low energy levels, and eventually get totally burned out or injured to the point where they cannot exercise.

Bottom line is that using our bodies for movement is an ancient sign that food was available and plentiful and that we were out foraging and gathering. This is when we would lean out and have a good positive attitude because we didn’t need to store up body fat if there was a bounty of food and there was no reason to feel depressed when survival was easier. This is the opposite of what happened in the leaner months when food was scarce. In ancient times that was when people would sit around more to conserve energy which led to reduced fat burning and a lower metabolic rate to spare the body from wasting away and the mood was more depressive and lacking in motivation to help preserve precious body stores of energy.

Fast forward to the modern world. If we engage our ancient times-of-plenty genetics and move around throughout the day every day, our genes trigger the release of the happiness hormones as well as burn body fat faster.

Fitting in your Fitness

December can be a month where time gets even more crunched. Social and family gatherings get scheduled, the days are short on light, and the end of another year with projects that must be completed by the end of the month often eat into people’s exercise programs. “Normal” is rarely the case. So if you find yourself juggling commitments and cutting out time to move your body, here are a few tips to be able to at least hold your fitness through the month until the New Year comes.

First, for your aerobic exercise like swimming, jogging, or cross country skiing, the minimum to keep your fat burning engine in one piece is about 20-minutes in your training zones. Even if you have a longer workout planned, if time necessitates cutting back a workout, try to get your heart rate up for a 20-minute stretch. This will prevent a loss of aerobic fitness for quite some time, so that you don’t lose your hard earned gains. It may not take you to the next level, but at least when your schedule calms back down, you will be in close to the same physiological shape you are in now.

Second, strength training is key to maintaining the integrity of not only muscles, but joints, ligaments and tendons. You can modify this as well to fit a tighter schedule by doing, as a minimum, one set on all of the five following exercises:

• Lat pulldown
• Leg Extension
• Leg Curl
• Bench Press
• Squats

This works the bulk of the main big muscles in the body with a minimum of time in the gym. It helps to also maintain your lean muscle mass, which helps keep your metabolism humming along during a season where it can be easy to overeat and under-exercise. You can then always finish with abdominal work if you have time.

Third, use our tip from last month, which is to always have a bag of exercise clothing with you in your car or backpack so that if a chunk of time does open up unexpectedly you can take advantage of it and fit in a workout.a

IronWar – 20th Anniversary

This month is the 20th anniversary of my first win in Kona back in 1989, on a day that has been called “Iron Wars.” As many of you know, it was a side-by-side battle with the guy who defied limits at the Ironman and dodged defeat for years, at a race where he owned exclusive rights to the champion’s lei.

I’m talking about six-time Champion Dave Scott. His invincibility seemed to be endless on the Big Island. I had pitched up at the start line six times prior to that fateful day and had walked away with exactly zero wins. My family and friends, the press, everyone was saying, “Don’t do it! Don’t go back. Stick to the races where you have had success. Go to the places you know you can beat Dave. Ironman is too hot and long for you.”

I was so close to saying they were right. But there was one thing inside me that was still burning, that gave me reason to go back for attempt number seven. You see, I had not had my best race there and until I did, I needed to go back. I was unsure if my best was as good as Dave’s, but I had a personal quest to see what my best day looked like, and I had not had it yet.

Armed with some new training and an attitude that was less caring about victory than personal perfection I spotted Dave at the swim start. We spent the next eight hours covering the course that lay ahead like Siamese twins. He sped up, I sped up. He slowed down, I slowed down. He was the best and knew how to race the course like no other human alive, so why not do like the best and just see what happened.

As we closed in on the half marathon point of the run we also began to separate ourselves from the rest of the field. We were on a pace that was going to shatter Dave’s three-year-old Ironman record. Unfortunately for me, he was at his best and getting stronger throwing in surges that dropped the pace down to a 6-minute mile. I was near the end of my tolerance to pain, to his relentless pace, and to the weight of a 0-6 record.

But then it happened…

Just as I was about to give up, the image of an old Huichol Indian shaman that I had seen two days earlier in a magazine came back to me. It was a revered elder named Don Jose, and in his picture he had a look that said “I am happy just to be alive”. Suddenly I was happy just to be next to the best in our sport. No one else was giving him a run for his money. There were still 13 miles left. Something might change for the better.

Drawing strength from Don Jose, the face of the race changed. I could feel energy surging through my body. I could also see that Dave was tiring on the uphills. So to plant a decoy, when he would slow, I would slow even more and drop behind him just a few paces in the hope that he might feel like he was actually stronger than I.

This cat and mouse game went on for over 12 miles until we came to the final uphill before town, the last chance to really make a break. I surged. Dave couldn’t respond. In the space of about half a mile I put over 10-seconds on him, then another 10 and then even more. At the finish the gap had grown to 58-seconds, a very small difference on a very long day. Dave shattered his previous world’s record by almost 15-minutes. I did my best time to date by nearly 30. And the marathon I had to run to pull off victory still stands as the fastest ever in Hawaii at 2:40:04, which includes the transition time from bike to run!

That was the watershed moment for my career. I went on to win six titles matching Dave’s total. I also began to study the wonderful tradition of the Huichol Indians with Don Jose’s grandson, Brant Secunda, and learn what gave him that zest for life and used that as a starting point for victory in the years that followed that first Ironman win.

On the outside it was the victory after so many losses that seemed to be the most significant part of this 20-year-old piece of history. But much deeper than that was my first true moment of experiencing a fit soul and a fit body. It was the end of one journey, the quest for victory, and the birth of another as the door to studying with Brant and a connection to the Huichol tradition was opened. I would meet Brant shortly after that race and begin, in earnest, learning and experiencing the wonder of this tradition and finding a way of understanding life in a way I had been searching to experience since I was a young boy. Six years later Brant would help me erase the biggest deficit in Ironman history for a comeback on the marathon that as commentator Phil Liggett says, “defies description”.

Life for me today is no longer concerned with finding race perfection. But I definitely continue to search for those moments of personal perfection as a father, as a student of Brant’s and as someone, who like each of you, is enjoying time filled with the health and happiness that living a life of Fit Soul, Fit Body can bring.

Finding Your Level of Fitness

One of the first questions about exercise that people have is how much they should actually do. Is 20-minutes a day, three times a week enough? How about overdoing it? Is a daylong bike ride too much? I want to lose weight. How much exercise do I need to do to accomplish that? Here are a few suggestions that will address all of these questions.

The first level of exercise goes something like this: any amount is better than none! If you are completely sedentary, even going for a short walk occasionally will be better than never doing a thing. There is basically no negative to small amounts of exercise and usually a positive response in overall health and well-being.

Next up is the amount that will give you the greatest benefits in terms of longevity. This comes about when a person burns about 300 calories per day through exercise, through moving their body. This is about the equivalent of walking or jogging 2.5-3 miles or doing any kind of aerobic activity for around 30-45 minutes, at a comfortable moderate pace.

You can take this to the next big gain by doing some form of exercise up to about one hour most days of the week. Research has shown that those who both live the longest and have optimal health have adopted this level of consistency with their movement and exercise. Again, that is one hour of exercise most days of the week. This can be done all in one shot, or if you are like many people, they find that breaking it up into two shorter sessions throughout the day is of equal physiological benefit and can actually help keep the feeling of Fit Soul intact from morning to night by offering a few chances throughout the day to take a true break from the responsibilities of life and get outside to absorb the beauty of life going on day and night.

Can a person put in too much exercise time? Definitely! What level this is will certainly be based on your current fitness. But if you are one of the select few who have tons of time to devote to exercise, the cutoff of true positive benefit seems to happen at about three hours. Over three hours of exercise in a day has shown to reduce immune function. So proceed with one eye on your overall health if this is the category you are in.

Is exercise the solution to weight loss? It can certainly be part of the answer, but research is now showing that it is usually not the entire solution, that is unless you are one of those who is fit enough to fall in that last category of training several hours each day. You can think of it in these terms. A pound of fat stores 3,500 calories. A 160 lb person would have to run just over a marathon in order to burn that amount of calories, and this is just to lose one pound of body fat. If you have say 50 extra, well, you can do the math. It’s a lot of exercise and for most people, between lifestyle commitments and bodies that may just not cooperate with three hour training sessions, looking to exercise to be THE answer to weight loss is unrealistic. In such cases, nutrition becomes the missing piece of the puzzle. (more of this in our book and in future issues)

However, exercise can definitely be part of the solution. Adding lean muscle through exercise helps burn more calories even when you are sitting still. Burning even a few more calories daily through exercise can assist in body composition changes by supporting any reduction in portion size a person makes. And most of all, exercise is definitely a big factor in gaining a Fit Body, which creates a more positive mood, which then gives one more energy and the ability to seek out healthy choices in all areas of life, which is a very positive feedback loop!