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.


  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.

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

  3. That is a good tea tip :)

  4. 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.