For the past few month I have been making a fool of myself whilst exercising. People don’t hold back,

‘Not sure what she’s doing, doesn’t even look like walking fast’

‘I could walk faster than that’

‘you look how I feel’

‘I’d give up if I were you’

‘(snigger) that’s so embarrassing, seriously?’

Add to these comments the laughing faces, the points and stares from inside cars as they speed past and you might be able to grasp a bit of the experience of being slow! I’ve tried to stare at my wrist to show people that I’m studying my heart rate, I’ve been smiling and confident, not to mention completely laid back. Nothing helps. I look as slow as an asthmatic ant with some heavy shopping (quote courtesy of Elton and Curtis: Blackadder Goes Fourth), but I have got faster (than a walk) and healthier!

I am Maffertone training, which put simply is not letting your heart rate go above 180 minus your age so for me that’s 132bpm when doing any exercise or workout. This isn’t a rough guide though, you must keep your heart rate below this number in order to make sure you are giving your body all the right signals. It’s crucial. my aim is to build a solid aerobic base before I add some strength training and the occasional sprint leading me to optimal gene expression and great overall health.

The principle is so simple, by keeping your heart rate below this level your body is not stressed, it gets itself into easy fat burn mode, releasing just the right amount of stress hormones and actually energising you! Yes, when you start you’ll be walking more than running, this is a long term project, but it really works. You can throw out your ridged training programmes this is intuitive, listening to your body and enjoying what you are doing.

For me the best information out there for this form of training comes from Mark Sisson and Brad Kearns with their book and podcast Primal Endurance

Why? Because ‘no pain, no gain’ is to fitness what ‘eating saturated fat causes cholesterol in the blood’ is to diet. We are so often taught that unless we are feeling the burn, exercise is not doing us any good and we are not getting the health benefits of being fit. Not true. I could go out tomorrow and run a half marathon, I’m fit enough, but the results on for my body would no be good, leading to:

  • Serious and health compromising stress, and not just the very obvious physical stress of not being able to move the next day but the immune system stress
  •   feeling under the weather, possibly coming down with the cold I’d managed to hold at bay.
  • I probably won’t run again for a few weeks, possibly a month as I lack both motivation and energy.
  • Stress on the endocrine system leading to hormone imbalance.

Health is your body (all parts of it!) and mind working in harmony to maintain homeostasis and feel good, where as fitness is  how able you are to be physically active. The one does not necessarily reflect the other.

It is a truth that you cannot out run a bad diet. If you are trying to lose weight, obsessively over exercising is not, in the long term going to work.

From personal experience, as soon as I increase my ‘exercise’ (planned fitness) whether that is running or strength training.  I will actually retain that extra roll of fat, feel tired and not sleep well. This is a very fine line for me, up until I started my training as a Health Coach I was a cyclical exerciser, I’d go all out, make myself ill then have to stop.

If you are exercising to lose weight, it will work when you  first go all out to get fit, no doubt caloric deficiency comes into play and you will trim up, but just like crash dieting, your brain and body will not approve of chronic exercise and you’ll plateau.  In order to maintain weight loss, you’ll need to go further, go faster or make that gym workout a bit more difficult. This is because your body is an engineering marvel, working in harmony to keep you healthy, so when you throw it the curve ball of over exercise, in order to protect you it will actually store fat, after all, it never knows when the next all out work out will come, and it needs to be ready, it needs to keep you able to go all out at the gym by making sure you have enough stored energy to do it.

The simple psychology of how we eat certainly plays a part. You may be in the mindset of feeling you deserve a treat after you’ve exercised, or believe you can eat that muffin because you’ve already burned it off at the gym. We all do it, but it all adds to not making you healthy in the long run.

Being heathy around exercise is about so much more than making sure you go out five times a week for your run or going to the gym and beasting yourself.

I would suggest some questions to ask yourself are:

  • Are you moving frequently throughout the day?
  • Are you allowing sufficient recovery between planned fitness?
  • When you’ve been for your average workout, do you finish it feeling energised and with the feeling you could do it all again?
  • Have you reached a plateau?
  • Are you actually enjoying what you do?

The proof? Two days ago I did a Mud and Sweat 5K.

It was fun! I slowed the team down, but we still came 1st!

This was the time to push myself and I can say in all honesty that I will not even need to take a whole week off my Maffertone running, but hey, if I want to that’s fine too!

I love my training now, I look forward to it. Laugh all you like, I know I’m fit and more importantly I know I’m healthy.