Thursday, January 12, 2012

Balancing Workout Intensity

Balance...equilibrium...moderation. Whatever you want to call it - I'm struggling with it. This time in the exercise department.

The past year or so I have been very inconsistent with exercise. I'd work out once or twice a week for a couple weeks and then nothing for months. Since the end of December I have recommitted to going to the gym a minimum of three times a week and so far, it's going well. For the last couple weeks I've gone 5 days a week. I'm liking going in the evening, after dinner. As I said, it gives me a chance to unwind, I don't feel like I'm in a rush, and it helps keep me out of the kitchen!

I try to balance cardio with strength training. Typically, I have 2 types of days that I alternate:
Day 1: 40 min cardio + 10 min light weights + stretching/physio (cardio heavy)
Day 2: 20 min cardio + 30 min strength training + abs + stretching/physio (cardio/strength)
All in all I'm usually at the gym for about 1 hour.

The problem I'm facing this time around is finding the right intensity for my workouts. Usually I try to make the most of my time in the gym. So I try to push myself, especially during the cardio portion. For example, when I'm on the elliptical I normally try not to let myself go slower than 7.0 mph on level 6 (just as a frame of reference).

The other day, I went to the gym, hopped on the elliptical and tried to make my legs move. They felt like lead. I was soooo tired. The fastest I could go was 5 or 6 mph. At first I wanted to just quit - if I couldn't do it up to par, why bother?? But then I realized I was being unreasonable. I needed to be kinder to myself and realize that anything was better than doing nothing! I decided to give myself permission to just do what I could. I managed 20 min of low-medium intensity, with my heart-rate in the fat-burning zone. Since, I tend to be an all-or-nothing person - giving it 100% or not bothering at all - this was actually a big step for me towards finding moderation (or achieving equilibrium!).

I've never really "believed" in the fat-burning zone. I always figured the faster my heart rate, the more calories burned, the better.
What do you guys think? Do you ever purposefully do cardio at a lower intensity?

So after this, I decided to let my body set the pace of my work-outs. To still push myself, but listen to my body.

But then a couple days later, I was at the gym again. I jumped on the elliptical and started moving. This time my legs were flying! I had so much energy, so I decided just to go with it. I did 40 min between 8.0-9.0 mph and it felt fabulous. The adrenaline and sweat were flowing. Everything was great until I got home. About an hour later I felt so sick. I had a pounding headache and was very nauseous. I felt like I was hungover. I'm sure I was dehydrated (which is what a hangover is). I worked too hard and lost too much water and electrolytes (I've experienced this a couple times before when I did Bikram's hot yoga). So in this case listening to my body back-fired. Again, I pushed myself too hard (even though it felt great at the time!) and paid for it later. Ugh! So frustrating. I guess I need to back off and take it easy. No matter how I feel (?).

Have any of you guys every experienced these types of symptoms from working out? Any advice on how to find balance?

On a happier note I made a life-changing discovery today (thanks to a girl at work!). If you order a Chai tea (not the latte, just the tea bag) and add sugar-free Cinnamon Dolce syrup, it has no calories and tastes AMAZING (sweet and spicy)! It's totally my new beverage of choice.



4 comments:

  1. Hi Melisa. Hang in there, you'll find your gym groove. (darn headache! Hope you feel better) OOOOH...gonna give that tea a try. YUM! Talk to you later.

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  2. I am totally going to try that tea :)
    I always get really nauseous when I do ab workouts!

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  3. Balance is the tough thing. I think it is harder for your body to go 2 times a week and be intense those 2 days. It is hard for the body to adjust. I would either do a little lower intensity on those 2 days, or do 3 days with a light, moderate and intense.

    Do you do intervals? That might be an option instead of just one long intense workout.

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