I thought I would elaborate on my fitness philosophy these days, since over-fitnessing is a real struggle for many of us. I used to exercise 2-3 hours per day, 6-7 days per week like it was my job. This caused: back pain, knee pain, foot pain, frequent injuries, poor sleep, raging hunger, binge episodes, bloating, weight gain, weakened immune function, constant colds, horrible moods, daily stress about how I was going to get it all done, and even more stress if I couldn't. Physically, the results were not awesome. I was always "struggling" with my weight. If I could restrict my food at the same time I was overtraining, I would briefly lose some weight but it was never sustainable. If I couldn't restrict the food (and I couldn't past a certain point), I would increase the exercise (ha!), which generally resulted in injury, illness, and binge urges rather than fat loss.
That's where I came from. It's not at all how I see it now. It has come to my attention that more exercise is not better. Better is better. In other words, if it's effective, it doesn't take all day.
It has also come to my attention that REST is the greatest workout performance enhancer of all time, NOT more exercise. All of the magic happens when you rest. No rest, no magic. Just broken stuff.
The biggest change in my philosophy came when I started exercising to feel fantastic. It was such a novel concept for a "no pain, no gain" person. I'm not exercising to burn calories, build muscle, lose fat, or impress bystanders. I'm exercising to be legitimately healthy, as opposed to feeling like roadkill in pursuit of a look. I'm training to add energy, not take it away, and to feel my very best.
There is no one right way to do that. Initially, I was strength training for about 20-30 minutes 3x per week, doing yoga once a week, and walking the dog every day. When I joined the ZGYM in 2014, I switched to daily 5-15 minute workouts. Initially, I was KILLING it every workout. If they're this short, I'd better make every second count! Faster, more weight, more reps, harder variations, extra rounds! That is uncalled for. LOL I learned quickly that doing that every day is not the way to go. Maybe one workout a week is all-out, super intense (and still under 15 minutes). Four workouts are medium intensity, phoning it in, going through the motions, watching TV and playing with the dog during sets. Two workouts are just yoga, stretching, foam rolling, OR under 5 minutes long. That is sustainable. That feels great. I've been thoroughly enjoying it for four years now with great results in terms of appetite, sleep, energy, mood, and fitness. There's no dread anymore. It's all fun and I always feel better afterward, not worse.
It's funny to me that I'm wearing a Fitbit again. I swore it off in 2012 or so when I found myself absolutely obsessed. I'd been "happy eating" for a while at that time, but I quickly slipped back into tracking food intake and energy expenditure, marching in place while I brushed my teeth, being unable to sit still, getting angry if I didn't hit my step goal. It was nuts. Back then, I took it off for my own safety and for the safety of those around me. When I started wearing one again a few years later, I was in this different "workout minimalist" headspace. What feels best? What is the least I can do? How can I use the Fitbit to improve sleep? Maximize recovery? Prevent overtraining? It was a VERY different mindset from "I'd better burn as many calories as possible so I can eat without getting fat."
Once I untangled food and exercise (and that took some doing), it was just a matter of eating and moving to feel my best, which in turn gave me fantastic results. My short little workouts are fun. I really look forward to them. I don't have a minimum step goal. I'm all about the "feel amazing" goal. Trying to hit an arbitrary number every day regardless of how I feel is counterproductive. I feel great first and look at the numbers later if at all. I do keep an eye on my sleep quantity and quality. Too much caffeine or staying up too late means I don't get enough deep sleep. Forcing myself awake too early compromises my REM sleep. If I eat too clean, my heart rate drops kind of freakishly low and I get cold. If I'm under unusual stress, getting sick, or not sleeping well, my resting heart rate starts to climb. So, the Fitbit increases my awareness and improves self-care. I see a change and get curious. What does this tell me? How can it help me?
Any thoughts? Questions? What is your minimum effective dose of exercise? Or have you found it yet?