I wrote a brief post yesterday on my FB feed about rest and recovery days and seemed to get a bit of attention so I wanted to piggy back off the topic.
While some of us struggle to get ourselves off the couch to hit the pavement or gym, others of us can become quite obsessively cranky if we forgo our workout of the day. Of course this is from one end of the spectrum to the other, which, in most cases is how most of us operate. Little time for the “gray.” 🙂
Today’s blog is for those of us that can’t live without exercise and can at times take it a bit too far. If you’re one of those people and choose not to read this that’s okay but often we’re the ones that need it the most. 🙂 I sure did.
I wanted to share a little story with you real quick. About 18 years ago, I was starving myself beyond recognition. I was about 75 pounds and was practically living off artificial crab meat and ice berg lettuce when my grandfather passed away. We were pretty close, often times laughing together outside by his lake house and him buying me big teddy bears every year (Teddy Ruxbin) was the jam.
Obviously, my eating disorder was in full effect during his funeral and I remember all I thought about was food and exercise. I was so tuned out with reality and repeatedly obsessing about my next meal or when I could run again that day. The disconnect was astronomical and it took me a long time to get over the shame I felt by not acknowledging his passing.
Of course this story is a bit extreme as many of us normally don’t starve ourselves to the point of hospitalization but you get the moral of the story. Exercise in fact can become too consuming if we’re not mindful of such.
Even with me going back during my triathlon days of 2011 I had to get that extra 3 minutes of pool time in or I would feel like a total failure. Commonly affecting those close to me while they waited patiently for my return 3 hours in. Call me conservative now but I truly feel there’s a threshold for us athletes and those of us that depend on exercise to fulfill us. Bottom line, exercise was my life, my bread and butter and nothing else really mattered. When I wasn’t training, racing or performing I had no inclination of who Kim was. Have you ever experienced that? Maybe you’ve been injured or sick and you had to take time off from working out? Tough wasn’t it?
Here’s where I’m going with this….I believe we all have a specific exercise threshold and this can absolutely increase with proper training and rest. However, if we’re not careful, we often take this to the extreme and tend to think MORE is better rather than BETTER is BETTER.
Here’s a quick sketch of what I would consider an unhealthy approach to exercise. See that line in the middle? That’s what I would call our base. Our base is solely dependent on our activity level, fitness levels, genetics, body composition, stress levels, etc. We’re all different. Let’s take John for example. He’s a competitive cyclist that trains 6 days a week for 2-4 hours a day, his stress levels are slightly elevated due to his full time job, his training regime, the duties of being a father of 3 and his average sleep schedule. However, over time he begins to notice some down fails in his training routine. He becomes increasely fatigued during and after his workouts, he now has a hard time sleeping, which at one point was never a problem. He starts lashing out at his wife a bit more frequently than he did before, often over silly things that didn’t bother him a few months ago. His appetite has gone down and he’s confused because he used to have a very healthy appetite. However, due to his type A personality he continues to push past the point of exhaustion. But-the key note here, you can see that the individual here is clearly ABOVE their base line repeatedly over the course of their exercise routine. John was under recovered.
If we’re under recovered, here are some signs to look out for:
- Repeated injuries and stress fractures
- Decreased appetite
- Loss of healthy muscle mass
- Fatigued or unmotivated to workout
- Wired, yet tired feeling
- On edge, lose our patience quicker, not as resilient
- Frequent colds, infections or feeling sick
- Blues, feeling a little depressed or sad
What do we do about it? Rest! Yes, I know this is a hard thing to hear, especially if we’re training for some big event but wouldn’t we rather have more effective workouts than sub par workouts repeatedly? At a certain point, we’re completely going against what exercise is supposed to do for our body’s and therefore it stops being effective. Our cortisol levels will feel elevated (you’ll experience weight gain the more you workout, have more anxiety and frustration post workout and a decrease in muscle with a steady increase in fat.)
For the second illustration, I find this to be a much more balanced and healthy approach to exercise. If I’m able to use myself for example, I used to be the first illustration but now I’m here and boy does it feel better!! My threshold is actually higher now than before because I give my body the proper rest and recovery it needs to perform at its best. I hit it hard a few times a week with HIIT training including sprints, less rest during weight training sessions and higher heart rate stuff. Then, I come back down, let my body rest the following day or two with restorative type exercises like walking or very light cardio. I have more energy, less dependence on caffeine, more patience and overall feeling of well-being.
It took me a while to get here and realize that my way was no longer working. However, I can’t begin to tell you how much better I feel. I also go by my HRV app on my iPhone which I find incredibly beneficial for any athlete to gauge their stress levels and to keep our nervous systems in check.
I LOVE Bioforce which you can find –>HERE. I also 100% believe in breath work to help calm my nervous system during times of heightened stress and this, without a doubt, been a life saver for me.
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Again, I get it’s hard to come off a training plan, especially when we’re used to a certain amount of volume or intensity. But, ask yourself this….would you rather be stronger, healthier, faster and smarter or lethargic, anxious, depressed and sick?
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