It's 6 weeks into 2015 and typically many of us are still going crazy in the gym, spin studio, HIIT studio or whatever new thing you've nominated to change your body in 12 weeks that you pray lasts the other 9 months of the year. Around about this time, you are probably starting to think this beginning of the year body transformation is a big commitment, perhaps a bit too big for your social life and more importantly your energy levels and your happiness. This weeks blog post champions the work-in - the chilled out exercise choice that makes you feel good without draining your energy and spirit which often leads to giving up and/or burnout.
The stress state
The body is always trying to maintain equilibrium, balance or the science term - homeostasis. In the autonomic nervous system you have the sympathetic and parasympathetic states. In a sympathetic state the body sends out breakdown hormones - a typical example of this is when you do high intensity exercise. Don't worry this is good because by breaking down your muscles you encourage them to rebuild and adapt to the stress you put them under. You also induce a sympathetic state when you are stressed - mental or emotional, physical, nutritional, environmental, chemical. If you put your body in a sympathetic state too much from work, life and exercise you'll pull yourself out of balance and this leads to burnout - mentally and physically.
The chillout state
In a parasympathetic state the body sends out repair hormones to mend damage you've incurred throughout the day as well as helping you digest food and helping you sleep. This state is as important to your health as the sympathetic high energy state. It is possible to spend too much time in a parasympathetic state which makes you feel lethargic and apathetic and an energetic uplifting workout can help lift you up out of this. Generally though, we spend more time in a sympathetic state because of the busy demanding lives we lead. What is most important here is balance. - both the sympathetic and parasympathetic states are important and through movement we can induce both.
The work-in solution
There are exercise choices that induce a parasympathetic state. It's really important to balance out your high intensity fat burning, fitness increasing workouts with the reparative recovery work-ins. I know at the beginning of the year you might be keen to get yourself in the best shape of your life and I am all for that - really I am. However, I don't see getting fit as a January to March thing. I see getting fit and maintaining fitness, health and wellness as a life thing. Life is an endurance race not a sprint. Balancing out your workouts and work-ins may mean your goal may take a bit longer but it will be a happier experience getting there, you'll be able to maintain it for longer (I am hoping for life) and your chances of burning out will be much reduced.
How to structure your workouts and work-ins
At Precision Movement we recommend our clients participate in 2-3 high intensity (between 70-90% of your max effort) 40-60 minute workouts a week. Good workouts I endorse are strength training, functional circuit training, modified strongman, spinning, cycling or running.
Then we recommend balancing that out with 1-2 work-ins such as hatha or kundalini yoga, a gentle swim, a walk in the country, tai chi or a good old movement meditation session.
When our clients go through through more stressful times we switch them to 2-3 work-ins and 1-2 workouts. For very stressful times opt for the work-ins only. Work-in movement helps to relieve stress if it is done in a gentle and reparative way without adding to your stress.