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Is our training actually hurting us?

We have all heard about the benefits of cardiovascular exercise for overall health, but should it be the focus of our workouts? Intense cardiovascular exercise, day in and day out, can increase stress on your body. Stress can cause all sorts of health related issues ranging from loss of sleep, weight gain, decreased immune function, all the way to heart complications. The heart is a muscle and unlike our skeletal muscles, we do not get “signals” such as pain from the heart muscle if it is being overworked – until it is too late. This is why it is so important to understand the possible consequences of long sessions of intense cardio and the stress that it puts on our cardiovascular systems.

As a species, our bodies are not adapted to endure long, strenuous cardiovascular events daily. Our ancestors would utilize quick bursts of energy to try to catch prey or outrun predators. Now, I realize many things have changed since our hunter-gatherer ancestors roamed the plains, but our genes have not changed all that much and we still are not made for the cardio that is glorified as being healthy.

If you enjoy cardiovascular exercise such as running or cycling, it may be beneficial to decrease your overall mileage. Studies have shown that HIT (high intensity training) is actually much more effective than long bouts of cardio. Short bursts of activity, such as weight training or sprints, followed by a period of rest can increase your capacity to burn fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. By training your body to burn fat for fuel, your body will turn to stored body fat as its preferred energy source. If you do not enjoy running or cycling (or another cardio exercise) for long periods of time, but have suffered through it because you were told it is healthy – rejoice! No more long, grueling hours spent pounding the pavement.

Want to improve your body’s ability to burn stored fat as well as save time on your workouts? Engage in weight training once to twice a week – where your focus is shorter reps and fairly heavy weights. Once or twice a week, engage in interval or HIT training where you get your heart rate high for short bursts with ample rest in between sets. These days could be spent doing sprints, quick bursts on the bicycle, or everyone’s favorite – burpees 😉 The rest of the week should be filled with movement, not planned exercise. Remember, over-exercising increases stress on the body, which can lead to a multitude of health issues.

Workout Example:

Monday: HIT training

8 sets 20 seconds on 10 seconds off

Alternate (one set each) between modified plank/bicycles

8 sets 20 seconds on 10 seconds off

Alternate (one set each) between fast squats/push ups

8 sets 20 seconds on 10 seconds off

Alternate (one set each) between squat jumps/mountain climbers

8 sets 20 seconds on 10 seconds off

Alternate between tuck jumps/burpees

Tuesday: Rest Day (walk the dog; housework; ect)

Wednesday: Weight Training

Heavy weights/ 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps

Bicep curls

Triceps extensions

Lateral Lifts Rows

Weighted Squats

Alternating lunges

Thursday: Rest Day

Friday: Rest Day

Saturday: HIT Training

Stationary bicycle

5 minutes warm up

2 minutes sprint/1 minute rest (6-8 sets)

5 minutes cool down

Sunday: Rest Day

I challenge each of you to begin to listen to your body. Everyone’s exercise tolerance is individualized and what works well for your body may not work well for someone else. These workouts should challenge you, but they should be achievable. Finding your balance is key and this takes time and practice. If you have the desire to stop (you’re feeling tired, body hurts, ect) – go ahead and do so – without feelings of failure. By listening to your body you are able to determine how much exercise you can do without overstressing your systems and staying healthy.

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About Teal Stage

Teal Stage is a Certified ACE Personal Trainer who emphasizes the importance of functional, quality movement. She has experience in personal training, teaching group exercise classes, and developing health programs centered around nutrition and fitness for the community.

Teal has earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition from Clemson University as well as her Master of Science degree in Applied Nutrition from Northeastern University and is currently in school for Massage Therapy.

Teal believes in a holistic approach to preventative healthcare and the importance of connecting functional movement, real nutrition, and stress relief to live a life full of vitality.

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