Go hard or go home, how many times have you heard that, either in a group fitness class or on social media. Heck, even as a personal trainer I am guilty of saying it a few times. I want to be clear: there isn’t anything wrong with working hard, so long as you’re being smart about it. Exercise is stress and your body will respond accordingly, and stress brought on by a lot of intense training can be absolutely fine, assuming that your stress levels are in check in all other areas of your life. If not, you could be training for nothing.
Are you training too much?
When it comes to fat loss, the only thing that a tonne of really intense training will do for most people is make them voraciously hungry. It’s crucial to fuel your training properly, if your training is turning your stomach into a bottomless pit, consider backing down the frequency and intensity of your activities. The same can be said about extreme deprivation or calorie restriction, it can seriously affect the hormones responsible for keeping your body in a healthy happy state. In other words, in order to conserve energy and direct calories to necessary functions for survival, your body resorts to burning fewer calories, even as you’re exercising regularly and intensely. This means you will hold onto body fat despite eating a low-calorie diet and training hard. Whether this perspective comes from reading fitness magazines that recommend a 1200-calorie-per-day meal plan or whether you’re simply not used to eating enough food doesn’t matter, the result is the same.
How do you know if you need to ease off your training and find balance? Observe your ACES (appetite, cravings, energy and sleep). Do you find yourself ravenously hungry and struggling to feel satisfied or craving carbs or fatty foods? How is your energy level or the quality of your sleep? These are signs that your body might need a rest. I know that if work is busy or stressful come Friday I will be craving lots of carbs, I’m back to waking up in the middle of the night and my energy levels are on the floor.
The 2:1 ratio
So, what can you do to counteract the hustle and bustle of everyday life? Number one is be mindful of how much intense exercise you are doing and possibly scale it back. Long walks preferably outside and in nature are great for restoring a little bit of balance. In fact, studies suggest that spending time in nature reduces our cortisol levels and heightens our sense of well-being; while researchers from the University of Glasgow found evidence to suggest that physical activity in natural environments can improve mental health and reduce stress. Daily restorative practices like yoga and meditation are great for improving your wellbeing; while apps like Headspace and Buddhify are great for mediation on the go and will take 10 minutes or less out of your day. I apply a ratio of 2:1 for my own restorative practices. So, If I do a 30 minute spin class I need to mediate or do 15 minutes of yoga. A 60 minute weights session could mean 15 minutes on the foam roller and a 15 minute nap or a 30 minute stroll in your local park.
The key is that you are mindful of the stresses in your life whether exercise, work or personal life related. Be sure to add in some restorative practices into your life and your mind and body will thank you.
Martina Dunne is certified personal trainer who specialises in pre and post natal coaching and small group fitness sessions. Her love for health and fitness also lead her to writing her own blog fromthetinyflat, which focuses on food and fitness instructor budget