I teach a class at the ungodly hour of 6AM on Mondays. It’s an hour. Its pretty intense.
My client, who I typically meet later in the day, arrived as class was ending, and said, “Oh! That’s what I need to be doing.”
Client: “Well, it’s an hour instead of 30 minutes, and I need that.”
Me: “Why do you think you need that?”
Client: “Because it would be better for me, to do more.”
And isn’t that so true about what we’ve been taught about exercise? If some is good, more is better. Move more, eat less.
That might be true for some folks – folks who aren’t moving and who aren’t really paying attention to their food choices. But what happens, is that advice falls on deaf ears, and the ones who hear it, aren’t the ones who need to.
Its like when you get an all department email about the inappropriate use of company supplies. The folks (or one person) that your boss is targeting doesn’t ‘get it’, meanwhile everyone else is wondering, ‘Is he talking about me?’
My friend Glenn has this, ahem, uh, unique approach to taking supplements. His theory is, if the suggested dosage calls for 2 tablets, he takes 4.
That sounds crazy. Right? You would never consider doing that.
… For medication.
But what about exercising? What about eating less?
When it comes to exercising, or eating, the rules are a little more vague.
If you google ‘exercise guidelines for adults‘, you’ll get a TON of different resources back from very credible sources: CDC, American Heart Association, Mayo Clinic, WHO, and NIH, just to name a few. And here’s the confusing/frustrating part; None of them have the same guidelines!!
There are different guidelines depending on if your exercise intensity is ‘moderate’ or ‘vigorous’. How do you know if you’re working at a moderate or vigorous level?
It’s all relative. Right? Is your perceived ‘moderate’, ‘vigorous’ for me?
There are also different guidelines for general health versus weight loss. It’s not exactly straight forward.
I think what happens many times is that we start an exercise program. We start to exercise and eat better, and we see some results from that effort. Then, in an effort to see more/better results, we tighten up a bit. We double-down our efforts. It’s easy to see how we would fall into the mindset of “if some is good, because I’m seeing good results with ‘some’, then I’m going to see fantastic results with more!”
And trust me when I say, it’s frustrating when ‘more’ doesn’t produce better results. Because often, when we double-down, we don’t get the linear results that we expected. We might get some, but we stall. Plateau.
I got caught in the same trap!
It wasn’t that long ago that I doubled down on my exercise. I was running 6-7 miles a day, 4 times per week, and on the days when I wasn’t running, I was going to spin class, or cardio kickboxing. In addition to that daily commitment, I was also strength training 4-6 times per week for an additional 45-60 minutes.
I knew in the back of my mind that it wasn’t right; that it wasn’t sustainable. I knew that when I was 60 or 70, I wouldn’t be able to keep up that type of activity. But I felt powerless to stop.
What would happen?
My appetite was voracious! I was always hungry! It was a never ending cycle. If I stopped exercising so much, I would blow up. I couldn’t let that happen. I thought it would be so shameful as a fitness pro to be overweight. Who would want to work with me?
Until I learned a better way. It took a lot of self trust. Through reading about hormonal balance, I stopped all the long-duration moderate intensity cardio.
It was so super freakin’ scary. But I had to trust the process. I knew that what I was doing wasn’t working. My physique did not reflect the amount of effort that I put into exercising.
See, where some exercise is good for you, and increases the body’s adaptive response to the external stress, the body can interpret too much long duration cardio as chronic stress: similar as if you had a high stress job, or stressful family situation.
When your body perceives chronic stress (like I describe above), it produces cortisol (which is actually instrumental in building muscle, so cortisol is not always bad). But chronic cortisol production results in hormonal imbalance, which will result in higher levels of belly fat.
Okay – enough with the sciencey part. When I stopped all long duration cardio, and limited my strength training sessions to 30 minutes – no more, two things happened:
- I stopped eating everything in sight
- I immediately lost 7 lbs
I also added walking: 30 minutes a day, every day. Walking has been proven to lower the body’s stress response.Walking is movement, and it DOES follow the rule of, if some is good, more is better. Walk as much as you can. Seriously.
OMG! It was incredible. I felt like I got part of my life back – or at least about 2 hours a day!
Today, I strength train 2x per week for about 40 minutes, I perform a conditioning workout (typically with weights) 2x per week, and I walk every day for about 2 hours.
Because of the reduction in stress that my body feels, I no longer have the insatiable appetite that I used to have.
I never thought it would be possible to eat just one (or two) cookies. But today I can. I swear it’s like a Christmas miracle! By reducing the amount of stress that my body felt, I was able to also reduce my food cravings. By reducing the stress in my life, I reduced the stress eating.
When your body feels stressed out, it reaches out for food. It’s not all in your head. It’s actually a THING!
So, if you like running, or spin class, I am not telling you to stop. Just like everything health related, everyone’s body is very different. What works for me may not work for you. You might be able to get away with more long duration cardio. OR you might NEED to do more of it. The only way to know is to experiment.
BUT if you can identify with my story, it might be an opportunity to give something different a try.
And from my experience with my clients and myself, the older we get, the more we need to manage our stress response, so you should limit your long duration cardio.
Just don’t think like Glenn: ‘if some is good, more is better.’ Because that’s not always true.
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You’ll learn how to change your relationship with food, your body, and realize that what you eat doesn’t determine whether or not you are a good/bad person.
And you don’t have to torture yourself with celery sticks and rice cakes (unless you’re into that kind of thing). 😉