One of the most common New Year resolutions is starting a new exercise routine. A lot of people have the approach of, “New year, new me! I’m going to get myself back in the gym or enroll in a new fitness class and workout super hard every day to drop some weight!” Although the motivation is there, the majority will burn themselves out and fall off their plan. This makes sense because you cannot expect your body to suddenly do a 180 and be ready to take on an intense new fitness regimen physically and mentally if you aren’t used to it. Your fitness journey is not a race. You must learn to flex that “patience” muscle and be ok with doing a lit bit each day to reach your goals as opposed to racing to the finish line. That is why my best fitness advice for 2024 is to train smart.
Training smart is all about understanding your body, fitness level and setting realistic expectations so you can stay consistent. If you know you have a long way to go, you must be patient with taking baby steps to reach your goal. It is not going to happen overnight so challenge yourself to fall in love with the journey!
Training smart is also about finding your stress response threshold. This is the relationship between the level of exercise intensity and cortisol response of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis. Or in layman terms, what your body can handle before you are swimming in a sympathetic state of fight or flight. I have tried everything from CrossFit, HIIT, strength training, yoga, long runs, sprinting, Pilates, and various other workout classes. What I have learned is that my body type and nervous system benefit most from a combination of weight training, walking (x number of steps daily), and playing sports I enjoy. I feel the best and have gotten the greatest results with a slow and controlled, mind-muscle connection approach, rather than something fast paced that ramps up epinephrine, adrenaline, and cortisol.
A high intensity workout may seem like a great way to torch calories. However, the intensity might break your threshold and spike cortisol levels putting your body in fight or flight mode. Chronically elevated levels of cortisol can cause anxiety-related weight gain from overeating and can also cause belly fat. This is because as cortisol goes up, so does our blood sugar. When our blood sugar goes up, our pancreas is going to output insulin, and chronically high levels of insulin will make your body store more fat.
If you are just getting back into a workout routine, my best advice is to keep it simple with slow and controlled low impact workouts. Examples of low impact training are weight lifting, walking, hiking, cycling, yoga, Pilates, swimming and playing fun sports or doing activities you love. Pick 3-4 of them and put together a weekly schedule for yourself. For example, I’d weight train for an hour on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Tuesday I’d go for a nice hike in nature, and on Thursday I might try a yoga class. Saturday could be something fun with friends like playing volleyball on the beach and Sunday is a full rest day to really focus on recovery so you can be ready to stay consistent and do it all over again the next week! If you don’t have access to a gym, you can grab some resistance bands and get your strength training done at home. There are many great resistance band routines online.
Check out Lakanto’s latest Instagram reel below for a low impact floor workout I recently did. I am really trying to focus on my mind to muscle connection and squeeze at the top of every contraction. At some point it also becomes a great mental workout as well.
Again, remember that your journey doesn’t have to be a race to the finish line. Take it step by step, be disciplined with your approach and have fun with it!
Weekly posts published weekly on Wednesday, or catch up on all Crosby posts here.