Just like appropriate diet looks different from person to person, so does appropriate exercise.
Also like your appropriate diet, your appropriate exercise will change many times throughout your lifetime.
With warm weather coming up and bikini season around the corner, I really want to encourage my readers to tackle their exercise goals from a place of love rather than fear, and to keep the big picture of their life in mind. Exercise is just part of the health puzzle. If other areas (diet, sleep, relationships, career) start to suffer because of your commitment to exercise, you may have some reframing to do. Here are a few pro tips from a person who absolutely loves to sweat and has had to learn boundaries over the years.
1) Take off days. Regularly. Your muscles need time to recover! That’s an objective fact. Everyone needs off days. Athletes don’t count because they have a whole team of salaried professionals whose job is to tend to their bodies. Schedule your off days like you schedule your workouts to avoid injury, overuse, and to perform better during your workouts.
2) COOL DOWN FROM YOUR CARDIO. Please please please allow proper time to transition your body from the healthy-stress mode of a workout into normal life. Use breath work. Take at least 5 minutes. Those 60 seconds at the end of spin class are not enough! I’m sure you’ve heard a commonly touted benefit of HIIT and other workouts—that your metabolism will be firing several hours after the workout is done. That’s cool—but only if you manage it properly! If you jump from your aggressive cardio workout straight into alpha-mode high-intensity life, your body will stay in hyper-stress fight-flight mode, you will crave sugar, never feel full, and eat your entire kitchen. I beg you to take the time to transition, especially if you have a weight loss goal.
3) Have a jam-packed day? Have a weight loss goal? If you have to decide between hours of sleep and hitting the gym, consider choosing the sleep without guilt. Sleep plays such a vital role in keeping us energized and regulated throughout the day. And when you’ve had a good night’s sleep, your hunger hormones stabilize and it’s easy to make healthy food decisions, skip snacks and dessert, and eat appropriate portion sizes. Get your beauty sleep, eat a healthy dinner at least 2 hours before you go to bed, and schedule your exercise for a day that works better without guilt.
4) Don’t underestimate movement. Sure, a walk may not get your heart rate up significantly or challenge your muscles, but it is better than nothing. Use walks outside to break up static energy, clear your mind, and connect to your breath. You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating—take the stairs, park your car far away when it’s safe, get off the subway a stop or two early. These little habits add up.
Let’s talk more about what’s going on for you personally with exercise—my first health coaching session is always free. firstname.lastname@example.org to set it up.