Over the last few years I have noticed an increasing obsession with high intensity (high heart rate) training. The main reasons for this I believe is that we are more time poor than ever before, – a large number of my clients are working 10 – 12 hour days and commuting anywhere between 1-2 hours to and from work daily. Secondly, our bodies are more stressed than ever before from eating undernourishing foods, having very little sleep, and spending more time anchored to a chair. On top of this we are then trying to do the right thing by getting our 30 minute HIIT workout in – any exercise is better than nothing right? Wrong.
I don’t blame people for having this mentality as many of us have good intentions with our health and fitness and for the fit, strong, and healthy high intensity training is a great tool. However, there is a lack of education and understanding around our bodies internal physiology in order to give our body what it really needs. Today a large majority of us are walking around with overly active sympathetic nervous systems which means our bodies are filtering stress hormones continually into our blood stream in an attempt to get the body back to a place of balance.
Many know our sympathetic nervous system as our ‘fight or flight’ system. This is our bodies response to stress and when active it can shut down/effect certain aspects of our physiology like our digestive system, reproductive system, and adrenal function while also being the cause of our inability to utilise energy efficiently to burn body fat, build muscle, recover from exercise, fight colds, get a good night sleep amongst other things.
I often liken the above with the analogy of driving around with both handbrakes on and your foot flat on the accelerator, your attempting to burn a heap of energy that you dont have and you’re going nowhere. This going nowhere approach takes a huge toll on our body which requires reversing through a gentle approach that utilises our parasympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as our ‘rest and digest’ system. Below is a 4 step approach that I know to be true and effective when it comes to building up a strong healthy foundation from which you can achieve any health and fitness goal thereafter:
- Awareness – I often say to people the first step is the awareness, firstly that something is not right and that you’re ready to try a different approach.
- Nutrition – When your body has gone through a period of stress even healthy food can be reactive so keeping a journal and eliminating anything that causes digestive dysfunction like bloating, diarrhoea, unsettled stomach, constipation etc. Even better we recommend seeing a naturopath if your noticing digestive issues and asking for blood tests to be taken.
- Recovery – Before we can re-introduce exercise that induces a stress response we need to allow the body to return to homeostasis. This is where we ask our clients to introduce yoga, pilates, meditation, journaling, massage, baths, sleep routines, walking and possibly light jogging (depending on the individual).
- Physical Exercise – When our biological markers have improved and symptoms have dissipated we can then begin to reintroduce more physical exercise, this can take some time so don’t jump the gun. Here a specialised plan building up your aerobic base, and introducing tailored weight training while keeping an eye on performance can lead you back to a place where high intensity training will be both beneficial and sustainable for you.
At Authentic Health we want our tribe to not only look their best, but feel their best, and perform their best. Because of this we take a big picture approach to all our clients results, if you are currently frustrated by your lack of results we would love to talk about how we could possibly help you.