Good news - you don’t have to struggle in the gym everyday, nor should you.
I’m no personal trainer, but I can tell you that killing yourself in the gym 7 days a week is not the way to reach your fitness goals. You may think you’re getting your money’s worth because you are exhausted after each session and dripping sweat, but in reality this form of chronic cardio and chronic strength training is a chronic stressor on the body. Chronic stress is a good way to speed up the aging process.
Chronic cardio/strength training (too intense, too often, for too long) results in the following:
Elevated cortisol levels - locks you in the fight-or-flight response
Maxed out adrenal glands
Impaired immune function
Low testosterone (cortisol is the antagonist to testosterone)
Chronic systemic inflammation
Chronic cardio teaches your body to prefer burning glucose to fat, increases sugar cravings, and traps you in fat-storing mode. We’d all prefer to burn fat right? And wouldn’t it be nice to be free of sugar cravings and still have energy post workout? We can achieve this by conducting workouts in the max aerobic heart rate zone, or what I call “Comfortable Cardio.”
Comfortable Cardio is based on Dr. Phil Maffetone’s Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate Formula of 180-age.
To find your maximum aerobic heart rate: subtract your age from 180. So, if you’re 30 years old, you will want to keep your heart rate under 150 during the making of the fitness. It’s best to use a heart rate monitor to ensure you’re exercising within the fat-burning and not the glucose burning zone; however, if you don’t have a HR monitor, your cardio should be conversation-able. Meaning, you should be able to carry on a normal conversation for the entirety of your workout.
Comfortable Cardio on the other hand:
Strengthens bones, joints, and connective tissues
Boosts the immune system with a cascade of anti-aging hormones
Burns fat without triggering the fight-or-flight response
Doesn’t cause sugar cravings
Scalable and sustainable
Aerobic exercise builds more mitochondria in your muscles, an effect known as "mitochondrial biogenesis"
Sustained workouts over maximum aerobic heart rate burn a greater percentage of glucose instead of fat and trigger the production of stress hormones and lactic acid in muscles. Comfortable Cardio maximizes fat burning during the workout and throughout the rest of the day. What does this look like in reality? Comfortable Cardio means any low-level movement that gets your heart rate up, as long as it’s below that magic number of 180-age. Don’t concern yourself with a minimum heart rate number. For some, this can be a casual jog, for others it may be a brisk walk or hike. My favorite forms of cardio are hiking (added bonus is being outside in nature) and deadmill walks (walking on the treadmill with it powered off for added resistance).
Constant movement throughout the day is key.
Two to three hours of cardio a week is all you need. It’s all about the stress/rest balance. As always, align your workouts with your energy levels. If you wake up and your energy level is an 8/10, your workout intensity should be an 8/10 as well. Pick something you enjoy doing and do it. Your health, your hands.