Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chronic Cardio

I've really been working at varying my workouts this week, to not be afraid to change things up.

I have been "chained" to running for many years, and a few weeks ago I tired of it. I think it was after I started reading "The Primal Blueprint" by Mark Sisson. He talks about this syndrome called "chronic cardio." We have all seen people who seem to run, aerobicize, or otherwise sweat their asses off at various machines at the gym to a frenetic pace...however they consistently lament about how they can't seem to lose that last 10-20 pounds despite their best efforts.

He describes how "chronic cardio" is stressful to your body, by causing you to produce excess amounts of cortisol and other stress hormones, by keeping your body jacked with adrenaline and by depleting your muscles of glucose and causing you to contantly crave sugars and simple carbs.

I thought about how despite my ever-increasing running regime, it didn't seem to be changing my body at all.

About a month ago, I noticed I had started eating too many simple carbs. I cut out coffee and replaced it with orange juice. I started eating Raisin Bran and would have two huge bowls every morning. I ate Triscuits, kashi and nutritionally devoid high-carb box meals for lunch. And every afternoon and evening, I would have a stomach ache, painful stomach cramps and bloating. UGH!

Well, I decided to cut out all simple sugars and carbs and totally changed my diet. Instead of Raisin Bran, I am eating eggs. For lunch, it's a salad with protein, fruits or vegetables. Dinner is meat and vegetables. Snack is nuts or a protein shake. After one week of eating like this, I had dropped 4 lbs, my stomach issues went away, and I had more energy!

I will keep eating like this. Anyway, back to the exercise part. I used to be part of the chronic cardio crowd, and it was starting to become NOT FUN. Getting up every morning to slug it out with the treadmill for an hour was losing its appeal. For years, I had been afraid to mix it up, thinking running was keeping my weight down, but I no longer believe that. I decided to start working out SMARTER, not harder.

I decreased my running from 5-6 miles almost every day - to 3 miles, four days per week. On the other days, I would do plyometrics and other P90X workouts, and NOT feel like I had to run too. I take 1-2 days off per week and don't feel guilty about it.

"Primal Blueprint" talks about the way our ancestors worked out, which was to move slow and steady for long periods, to occasionally sprint, and to lift heavy objects. Simple as that! I know to change my body I need to lift weights, and the week I started doing that again I was SUPER sore and became aware that I was dreadfully unprepared for anything other than running!

I am working a much more well-rounded exercise routine now, free of "chronic cardio," and I am feeling happier and much more in control!

Today I was feeling kind of sour and had some troublesome things running through my mind, over and over... things that are far in the future that I have no control about right now. I was driving my husband nuts by babbling on and on and all the different scenarios which may or may not plague me in the future. After a while, I couldn't stand listening to myself

It was a fairly decent day today, about 40 and with hazy sunshine. Even though I didn't WANT to, I decided to go outside for a jog. I had a slight headache, wasn't motivated, and was trying any number of tactics to talk myself out of it. I knew getting out in the fresh air would help me though so I forced myself to lace up my shoes.

I went out and had a nice, cleansing hour long jog. Not super fast, just nice and steady. The fresh air and sunshine felt grand! By the time I got home, I realized something miraculous had happened - I was no longer obsessing about the future and my fears!

I had rebooted my brain. Exercise literally does that for me. It doesn't always make me feel amazing, but it always makes me feel BETTER and changes my outlook on things.

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