We’ve all been told that in order to lose weight we must eat less and exercise more; so if we want to eat a big piece of cake we can just run it off later and never have to worry about it again! Well that’s just 100% WRONG!!
Just as the food pyramid has lied to us about what we should be eating, exercise guidelines have also been telling us little fibs! Engage in cardio for at least 30-60 minutes per day, strength training should involve isolation exercises, stretching is imperative to good health, blah, blah blah.
Given the obesity and diabeetus (my way of spelling diabetes since I always pronounce it like that) epidemics, exercise has recently been used purely as a weight loss tool, which is not only highly ineffective, but can also create more problems that just make weight loss even harder. I’ve written this post in an attempt to expose why we should and shouldn’t exercise and what the best ways to exercise really are (and no, it’s not running)!
If you have read my about me, you would know that I once thought running 3 times per day was a good way to keep healthy. I know, what was I thinking! Not only was I not losing weight (in fact I was gaining weight, particularly around my tummy), I was worsening pre-existing adrenal issues, losing muscle and generally exhausting my body.
After recovering from the acute phase of anorexia, I began to slowly decrease the amount of exercise I was doing, however it wasn’t until 6 months ago that I began to really understand what ‘good’ exercise was. ‘Good’ exercise, in my opinion, is something that you enjoy and engage in for reasons other than weight loss or maintenance. Unlike chocolate, more is not better when it comes to exercise, in fact, you could even say ‘less is more’! I have outlined some exercise essentials below that will hopefully change the way you currently exercise or get you on the right path to start!
- Firstly, you must find a reason to exercise other than weight loss/maintenance or calorie burning, whether it be to gain mental clarity, get stronger so you can perform everyday tasks with ease or to get some quality ‘you’ time where you can just be with yourself.
- Exercise for weight loss is highly ineffective as it just stimulates your appetite, leaving you tired and wanting more food. If your goal is to lose weight, you are much better off addressing your diet than exercising more.
- Exercise should ideally be done first thing in the morning and preferably outside. The exposure to natural light first thing in the morning is best for your circadian rhythm and helps you to wake up without the need for caffeine.
- Exercise NEEDS to be something you enjoy. If you don’t like running, try a leisurely bike ride or a walk with some happy songs on your Ipod. In summer, try swimming laps at the local pool or yoga as the sun rises.
- Incorporate high intensity interval training (HIIT) into your regime. Throughout the week, I like to do 4 high intensity workouts and 2 leisurely ones. Incorporating HIIT into your exercise could be as simple as doing one of my workouts I have posted here or just doing 10 x 100m sprints.
- HIIT MUST be limited to 30 minutes in duration, preferably less than 20 minutes. Any more than this stresses the body for too long, contributes to adrenal fatigue, raises cortisol and can even lead to reverse T3 when continued for an extended period of time.
- Leisurely exercise can be longer than 30 minutes but only if it very low intensity. For example, when I go for a bike ride I am riding so slowly that I can breathe through my nose the whole way (any slower and I’m sure I would topple over)! Another way to ensure you are not pushing yourself too much is to make sure you are able to hold a good conversation with someone without having to stop and puff.
- It is important to change up your exercise every so often (perhaps every 3-4 weeks) to ensure you are constantly challenging your body. Just like going to work each day to do the same job gets boring, your body gets bored of doing the same exercise day in, day out.
- I don’t believe in isolation exercises (ie bicep curls) and much prefer compound exercises (exercises that target multiple muscles) such as burpees and deadlifts, hence you will see a lot of these in my workouts.
- It is important to rest muscle groups for 24-48 hours before using them again, ie I wouldn’t perform a legs workout today and then do it again tomorrow as it just doesn’t leave enough time for the muscle to recover and repair.
- Exercise doesn’t always have to be structured. If you are struggling with time, you can just try and get in 10,000 steps of walking whilst running errands.
- Listen to your body! If you don’t feel like exercising, don’t! Our bodies are very good at telling us what they want, and if they want to rest, let them!
- Keep it mindful. Make sure that whilst you’re exercising you’re thinking about the muscles being used and focusing on good form, rather than swinging like a wild person and thinking about what you’re having for dinner!
- Post workout nutrition is important. Within 40 minutes of strength training you should consume at least 30g of protein to help your muscles recover.
I hope these tips have helped you to understand what sort of exercise you should be doing. For further assistance, I have listed below an example of what I do most weeks for my exercise. If you require further assistance regarding your exercise or would like a personal plan developed specifically for your goals, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and hopefully I will be able to help you out 🙂
- Monday: 10 minute warm up jog, chest and shoulders pyramid workout
- Tuesday: 5 minute warm up jog, 5 x 100m sprints, legs workout
- Wednesday: rest day
- Thursday: 10 minute warm up jog, triceps and biceps workout
- Friday: slow, leisurely bike ride (around 45 minutes)
- Saturday: 10 x 100m sprints, abs pyramid workout
- Sunday: 5km run or 1km swim at local pool