meditation as “workout”?

31Jul13

Have I flipped my high-intensity-interval lid? Whoa.

I decided on a new approach recently (and none too soon, as my body suddenly crashed from a buildup of too many HIIT workouts, I guess?). I’ve been going going going for months on high-intensity workouts–even my runs getting me up to 80% maximum heart rate, since my body hasn’t had time to recover–in the hopes that I can still drop a few pounds.

Especially since my diagnosis last October, I want to stay strong, and perhaps get stronger, if possible. So at the beginning of the year, I started working out harder, more strength training workouts, cut out gluten, focused on produce… surely this would do something?

And that it did: over the course of about 6 months, I gained 2-3 pounds (perhaps negligible, but still in the wrong direction), and I increased belly girth significantly. I used to have the wider hips/really slim waist–I used to be a very exaggerated hourglass. I’m still hourglass, but I’m wider and lumpier in the middle.

Yet, I was making healthier choices…. what gives???? All I could do was work out harder. Still no results… other than constantly feeling tired and sore, resulting in not enjoying life.

I’d been thinking about these themes already, but this article discussed hormonal effects on body fat more clearly and eloquently than what I’d been thinking. I’m talking about the hormonal effects of the middle-aged woman, but also stress hormones (cortisol).

I’d initially thought that my work didn’t have me too stressed on a regular basis–just short bursts of stress every now and then. But then I realized that even though my high-intensity workouts make me happy and they’re mostly fun, my body perceives my intense workouts as a huge source of stress!

So, could it be that by working out intensely every day, I’m causing my body to release huge amounts of cortisol, which is counterproductive by causing my body to store more belly fat???

The science supports this theory… but it is merely a theory. As I tell my nutrition students about controversial topics that come up in class, ask me 5 years from now, and I might have a different answer.

My approach for the next few weeks:

  • Short meditation every day. Yoga Journal has started a 28-Day Meditation Challenge, which makes this easy for someone like me who needs a little guidance. They also include a 5-minute hip-opening yoga sequence that you can do prior to the meditation, to make seated meditation more comfortable, good if you’re like me and do it first thing in the morning.
  • Some restorative yoga every day. The degree of “some” depends on how tired my body feels. More fatigue = my body needs more restoration. (I’m combining restorative poses and gentle yin yoga poses, here… poses I can hold and relax into for a while, and meditate)
  • Still include some strength training each week, as that is paramount for someone with MS. Instead of 6-7 days per week, trying to get the same amount done in 4-5 days per week. This also includes Pilates.
  • Not forcing myself into running 3 days per week, but seeing how it feels over the next few weeks. Not giving it up entirely.
  • Cutting back on cardio but again not giving it up. I think HIIT workouts are great for the body, but I’ve probably been doing too many of them.

Overall, my focus is toward something every day that will relax my body and decrease my cortisol level. Maybe then, I won’t have to work out so many hours per day, and I won’t feel quite so broken down…

I’m going to give this experiment a few weeks, for sure.

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4 Responses to “meditation as “workout”?”

  1. I am so happy to see others using meditation as a stress management tool. I practice mindfulness meditation and it has changed my life 🙂

    • Thanks, Estizer! Great to hear! I think a few minutes a day would benefit everyone in a big way. It’s definitely helped with my concentration and focus issues!


  1. 1 so, how should i meditate? | In Search of My New Normal
  2. 2 a conundrum re: strength training and nutrition | In Search of My New Normal

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