Just a few years ago, I was a bonafide workout adrenaline junkie (WAJ.)
Every single workout had to leave me feeling like I left it all out there on the gym floor/trail/pavement – and absolutely gas me.
While I do still consider myself an adrenaline junkie, it’s the high I get from climbing mountains topping 14,000 feet or trekking my way across a steep snow cliff that I chase now, not making every single workout smoke me.
Oh, but there was I time I did. Circa late 2011/early 2012, my weekly workout schedule scarily looked something like this:
M: Heavy lifting + finisher + elliptical
T: HIIT on the treadmill + elliptical and abs
W: Heavy lifting + finisher + elliptical
Th: 60 minute tempo run
F: 45 min. spin class + heavy lifting + finisher
S: 60 min. spin class
Every. single. effing. workout I did left me panting, red faced, and breathless. While I loved that feeling, what I didn’t love was feeling exhausted the rest of the day, and then what lead to the eventual rebellion and cease of my entire menstrual cycle. Obviously, I took the latter as a cue to change something – and fast. I’d heard of amenorrhea and knew that too intense workouts, as well as stress and poor nutrition (my combo) could lead to it.
Immediately, I changed things, omitted all cardio aside from long walks from my life, and added in stress-reducing practices like yoga. It was time for a season of change. A season of rest. (You can read all about how I got my period back – and how it’s been like clockwork for 1.5 years here.)
Now, I take a more balanced and moderate approach to fitness, valuing life-enhancement and being physically fit over thinness and maximum calorie burn.
Take a look at the hashtags #noexcuse or #nodaysoff or tens of others on Instagram, and you’ll find hundreds or thousands of people who have the same (or even more intense) workout schedule that I once had with the same goal for each workout: to leave them as exhausted as possible. And to think that fitness influencers and even some professionals actually promote this lifestyle! It makes me SO sad.
During my flight back from Illinois last week, I came across this article, which has a refreshing take at the militarization of fitness. You know, a fitness regime that focuses more on BIGGER, MORE, FASTER, HARDER than rest, recover, and training smart. The militarization of fitness is essentially workouts declaring war on the body.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has gained SO much popularity over the years, which is great! As you know, I’m a lover of HIIT myself, and have written many a HIIT workouts on this very blog (see here, here, here, here, here, and here.) However, what hasn’t gained as much popularity is the parameters that should be set when adding HIIT to your fitness regime:
- Start SLOWLY with just one day of HIIT per week and sessions of less duration
- Never do more than 2-3 HIIT sessions per week
- When done properly, HIIT should only last 20-30 minutes max, and that’s with a warm up and cool down
It doesn’t have to be HIIT to exhaust you, too. All exercise is a stressor on the body, and that doesn’t mean it’s bad for you! Our bodies adapt to stress and get stronger. It just means that too much of that stress is bad for you.
Even if your goal is fat loss, it’s imperative not to misuse HIIT in your routine. Most of the clients I coach online have goals of increasing strength while losing fat. We incorporate HIIT and other interval training to reach those goals through various forms – whether it’s metabolic bodyweight workouts, metabolic strength training, or on the treadmill. However, I sprinkle it into their routines here and there, along with lifting and other forms of exercise, instead of having it be the foundation of their program.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to take your seasons of life into your consideration of training intensity. Right now, the weather is perfect here in Colorado, and I don’t have any major stressors going on in my life, so my fitness is in full force. I’m hiking, trail running, playing volleyball, teaching spin, and lifting 3 days between it all.
However, when we buy and move into a house next March, I’ll likely dial my training way back, because moving is incredibly stressful! And I always, always, take at least 1 rest day, to just walk or stretch. And above all else: listen to your body. Sometimes we’re stressed without even realizing, and we don’t know it until it takes a toll on our bodies. Pay attention to sleep patterns, energy levels, heart rate, cravings, and hunger levels for signs of overtraining.
So, if you can’t do High Intensity Workouts every day, what should you do instead?
As I’ve always said, move in a way that brings you JOY. Lift some heavy things, get in some tough cardio, but also go for those hikes, take some leisurely walks, do some gentle stretching. We don’t need to put our bodies through a battle to be fit and healthy.
And don’t take your workouts SO seriously. Relax! It’s a workout, not a war.
Have you been guilty of being a WAJ (Workout Adrenaline Junkie?)
How do you make sure you listen to your body?