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It’s no secret that exercise does the body good, right? Over the past several years, I became a bit of a freak about it, meaning obsessed. Before I began my Paleo lifestyle, I was working out just about every day. I felt exercise helped me stay healthy, maintained my weight, relieved stress, and managed anxiety by burning off excess tension. These are all things that exercise certainly does, when done right. So, what was I doing wrong? Several things….

  • I was a cardio junkie! Running, elliptical, stair climbing.
  • I practiced very little strength training.
  • I forced myself to workout even when I was sick and/or overtired.
  • I didn’t let my body recover between workouts.  
  • I did the same type of exercise repeatedly and too often.
  • I would forego sleep to exercise if early morning was my only opportunity.

Did I say I was obsessed? Was I always like that? Hell No!! I was not a big exerciser at all. I played sports as a kid including cheerleading and gymnastics, but that didn’t seem like exercise to me. It was fun. Exercise isn’t fun is it? (More on that later.) It took until my marriage was falling apart and I was determined to do what I could to feel good about myself again that I ventured into the world of fitness. I started with yoga, something I highly recommend especially if you are new to fitness and something I still try to practice. From there I discovered the elliptical machine, a low impact cardio workout that quite honestly was as inspiring as watching paint dry….I used to read a book or magazine! What? That should have been a clue, that though I was exercising, it was not something I was dying to do again. (I see people all the time who do that. It makes me laugh now.)  When the weather turned warmer I saw all these people out jogging. It looked like a great way to get lost in my IPod and enjoy being outside. I began to imagine myself on these long effortless, refreshing runs that would leave me with the legs of a gazelle…..It felt like torture! My lungs felt like they were on fire, my knees hurt, my lower back ached, and I got shin splints. Quite frankly the minute I started, I wanted to stop. However, I was determined to really give it a try, understanding that I needed to condition my body for this. I decided to start “wogging” (half walking, and half jogging.) The day I ran my first full mile, like, in a row without walking or stopping was a huge day! From then on I was hooked. I ran as often and as long as I could. And this is where I started to go wrong.      

Was I doing anything right? Sure.

  • I was at least motivated to get moving. In the past I would find every excuse NOT to exercise so at least I was motivated.
  • I tried to incorporate other things like yoga when I could, just not often enough.
  • I bought a weight machine with the intention of using it, but found I didn’t have the time to use it properly.
  • I did take the time to research how to not hurt myself.

So, here’s how the wheels fell off. If you have read some of my other posts you may already know that what lead me to Paleo was a lengthy bout of chronic illness, fatigue, anxiety and inflammation. The chronic stress of being a single mother to two busy kids, a 50+ hour a week career, a full-blown economic crisis (my career is in finance), years of well-intentioned but misinformed eating habits, and constant chronic exercise threw my adrenals into exhaustion, debilitated my immune system, inflamed just about every physiological system and messed up my endocrine (hormonal) system. I was abusing myself. It’s true.

Through my research efforts to be an active participant in regaining my own health I discovered the Paleo/Primal lifestyle. I soon discovered that Paleo/Primal is not just a diet or a way of eating. It is a mind set. It is a way of viewing your world and how you want to feel in it. One of the principles is the role of exercise. Mark Sisson, author of the Primal Blueprint really opened my eyes here. If the whole point of the Paleo/Primal lifestyle is to live the way our earliest ancestors (who paved the way for humans to evolve into the species that now runs the world due to the development of big healthy brains and healthy bodies) we should probably use our bodies in a similar way. These ancestors walked a lot, hunting and gathering food. They undoubtedly ran to catch something or run away from something. They climbed things and picked things up. They lifted heavy things from time to time in short bursts of intense exertion to build shelter and remove obstacles. They stretched and bent to reach things and relieve tension.  They played! Games and challenges where social activities. They also relaxed a lot and spent time with friends and family. They slept when it got dark and woke when the sun came up.

Can you see where I went horribly wrong? I was running all the time! When I was walking it was usually in high heels and certainly not for exercise. I didn’t sleep nearly enough. I actually gave up sleep to exercise. I rarely picked things up or lifted anything particularly heavy. I RARELY relaxed. I was ALWAYS moving and not in ways that really enhanced my life. Play? I hadn’t moved just to have fun in a long time. Somewhere there has to be a happy medium between rarely exercising and always exercising. According to Mark, there is. I have been following his recommendations for a year now.

  • In addition to my dietary changes I now workout 4 days a week instead of 7. I still run when I feel like it and have time because on a nice day I really love it.
  • I am committed to getting stronger but I want to do it right. I knew I didn’t have the time to spend 2 hours at the gym nor did I want to spend $100 an hour for a personal trainer. This is when I found Cross Fit. If you’re not familiar with it, check out https://crossfit.com/ for details. In a nutshell, the premise is shorter bursts of intense exercise that works as many muscles in your body at one time as possible is more efficient and better for your body. It is how our bodies were meant to move.
  • I let my body rest. When you are lifting heavy things, even if it is just your body weight, your body needs enough time to recover so it can rebuild and get stronger.
  • I take the time to walk. Walking is one of the best ways to keep your muscles working without over stressing them and causing internal inflammation.
  • I still practice yoga when I can. It’s breathing, stretching, moving your body weight and relatively relaxing once you learn how to do it right.
  • When my kids are at a loss for friends to play with, they will actually play with me! Basketball in the back yard, catch and soccer in the front yard, we hike when on vacation, we ride bikes, etc.

What I find fascinating is that through this dietary style I follow, I work out less but still maintain a weight I feel happy with, I have more energy, I sleep better and I look forward to exercise as a way to feel good, not just to avoid weight gain. If I am really honest with myself, I know the reason I worked out every day was because I was obsessed with keeping weight off. Even though I was counting every calorie, without exercise I still battled over every pound. Now that I have eliminated the foods that cause fat storage, blood sugar surges, food cravings and inflammation I don’t really gain weight anymore. So exercise is something I enjoy because I am truly healthy enough to enjoy it, I have the energy I need to give it all I’ve got and it shapes my body in a way just a diet can’t.

To summarize exercise the right way:

  • Move at a comfortable pace as often as you can. (Walking, hiking, and easy bike ride)
  • Move fast once or twice a week. (This does not need to be long, if you only have a few minutes, just go as fast as you can for 30 seconds or a minute then rest or slow down for 2 minutes. Repeat a few times, maybe a total of 10-15 minutes and you’re done!)
  • Lift heavy things once or twice a week. Kettle bells, dumbbells, and resistance bands work just as well a big heavy, bulky weight set. Or just lift your own weight, push ups, pull ups, squats, and sit ups. You can do this in a gym or at home. There are lots of resources that I will add to the end of this post.
  • Play whenever you get the chance. (If you have to read a magazine to get through it, do something else!) What do you like to do? Maybe join a sport league, go dancing, grab the kids and go do something, whatever.  
  • Relax and recover. If you are using your body the way nature and evolution intended you deserve to rest it and nurture it.

Exercise should not feel like a chore. If it does, then do another type of exercise. Diet alone will only get you half way to awesome. To get further, move that awesome body baby!

 

Until Next time,

~ Laura, MGP

P.S. This post is obviously not meant for people who are trained athletes or people training for a particular athletic goal. This is meant for people like me who are either looking to lose weight or get fit in a way that does not cause inflammation or injury along the way.

 Some online fitness references:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Responses to “Move it Baby!! Exercising the smart way.”

  1. Mom of the Paleo Mom says:

    Really, really good post hon. Heck you might even inspire me with that one. Now wouldn’t that be something 🙂

  2. […] to look better naked, cut the starch and sugar and get the right kind of exercise (see my post on exercising the smart way) If it’s better athletic performance, then balance and timing of macro nutrients is key, […]

  3. Britt says:

    Hi, LOVE the blog!!! what do you do for pre/ post workouts? thx 🙂

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