Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Workout Wednesday: Is It Working?
I apologize for the lack of a post last week. I was stuck at parent-teacher conferences until 7 PM on Wednesday, and needless to say, didn't really have the writing juices flowing afterward. I don't even know if anyone reads this anyway, so I'm not sure if anyone was disappointed.
This week, I'm writing about a question that was asked me by a family friend. I love and adore this girl. And I think her question represents the way a lot of people think about exercise and working out in general. The conversation was about my exercise habits. I work out several days a week. I don't give myself a minimum. I just make it a priority, and if for some reason it doesn't happen, or I don't feel like doing it, I won't. But I usually hit 4-6 days every week. In discussing my gym habits, my friend asked, "Well, is it working?"
I was a little taken aback by the question at first. What did she mean, "working"? Working for what?
Then I understood. She was asking if I was losing any weight from all of my exercise.
I explained to her that that's not why I exercise. And if that were why, I should probably put down the bag of Haribos I got in my stocking, and quit eating the Christmas baking I had been working on.
What I want to write about is how exercise is working. How it works for me and everyone, and not in the sense of weight loss, though that can be a very pleasant side effect for those who can commit to good eating habits.
Here's how it's working.
1. Stress relief. I find that when I leave work and head home sometimes, I have this weird choking feeling in my throat. That's my body's response to stress. I try to let go of whatever it is, and the lump goes down a little. But then I get on that treadmill, or pick up those weights, or turn on my exercise DVD, and a few minutes later, that feeling in my throat is gone. That's it. I left it at the gym door. Plus, Patrick might be able to attest, I'm a lot less grouchy when I'm done. Exercise can release serotonin, which makes you feel more relaxed. I'm sure you've heard of endorphins, too (less pain for the win)!
2. Boosted metabolism. That's right. Eat on. If you exercise, your metabolism is working a little harder. If you do high intensity interval training, it's working a lot harder. On average, you burn 10 calories per pound of your body weight by just existing. I won't tell you how many calories I should burn by doing nothing. But I can tell you that I burn at least 300 more than that on days I don't even exercises. That's because of the days I do exercise. I will burn around 2400-2600 calories on a day of intense exercise and moderate activity at work. I hope you can tell that that's a LOT more than I'd burn just sitting. So exercise works for you even when you don't do it!
3. More energy. I don't think I've had more energy in my entire life than when I was training for my half marathon. That sounds counter-intuitive, probably. "How can you run 7 miles and feel more energetic?" The science says that oxygen and nutrients are delivered to your body more efficiently because of exercise. I guess that's it. All I know is that I am more awake and more vibrant due to exercise. I hit a midday slump at about 3:15 without fail. I want a nap every day at that time. But I exercise instead. And I'm always glad I did!
4. Better sleep. It sounds funny, but even after having a boost of energy in the middle of my afternoon, I sleep a lot better at night. I've read several times that it doesn't even matter what time of day you exercise. It can be right before you go to bed. And you'll still sleep better regardless. It's not guaranteed. Some people have sleep disorders and things, but on the whole, I sleep better because I exercise. It makes me less anxious, and I feel like I accomplished more, so mentally I sleep better knowing what I got done.
5. More learning. I've read on a couple of occasions that studying while you are doing your cardio can actually help you retain the knowledge. Your mind works faster when blood is flowing to it. When I take an easy day on a stationary bike or elliptical, I love to read my Fitness mags. Most of the information I'm giving you comes from those magazines, and I've probably retained the knowledge because I was exercising while I read it. I've done my fair share of textbook studying while working out, too. Doing two things I love at once is a bonus! Double the "me" time.
6. More mobility. I have to say that one of the biggest reasons I exercise is so that I can stay out of a wheelchair in the future. Or so that I can say I tried my hardest to do so, anyway. My grandpa is the most capable person I know, and he's 80. He never wanted to be in a wheelchair, have a cane, or be in a hospital, so naturally, he exercised. Since exercise strengthens bones and keeps you flexible, you can avoid big injuries by maintaining agility.
7. Rarely sick. The last time I was sick was Christmastime, and that's because I came home, and everyone around me was sick! Before that, I am not even sure of the last time I was actually ill with a cough or sinus issues. You boost immunity and ward off viruses by exercising.
8. Avoiding disease. Obviously this comes with a laundry list of reasons why. Your low blood pressure, your general positive mood, your stronger heart, your increased muscle content, your cleared arteries, your good cholesterol, your sweaty detoxification, your clear skin, and every other effect can help you avoid cardiovascular diseases, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and more. Genetics and other factors contribute to these things, but I exercise because that is a factor that is in my control.
9. Pride and confidence. This is last but not least. You've probably seen my Instagram. I've taken a few pictures of me flexing. Now, I don't look like a bikini competitor or a fitness freak, I don't think. I have no abs. I don't flatter myself. But I am proud of my strength and my abilities. I'm proud of my huge legs that did 200 squats today. And I'm proud of my triceps and back that helped me do 120 (girly) push-ups today. I'm proud of my increasing back strength that let me do 60 jumping pull-ups. And I'm proud of my 49 push presses. And 49 burpees. And 49 butterfly sit-ups. And my 1 mile run. I'm freaking proud! And I may not have a perfect body; I can definitely afford to lose 20 pounds or more. But I'll be damned if I am not thankful every single day for what my body can do right now and for the strength that it has, no matter what I weigh. I show my appreciation for my body by pushing its limits and seeing what it can do. I flex my baby biceps with serious pride because I know what they can do. I have fun when I exercise. When I finish, I feel accomplished, especially on the days when I thought I wouldn't make it through. My sweat pours onto the floor, or I wipe it onto that towel, or it gets absorbed into my perma-stink shirts, and that liquid is all my work. The more soaked my towel is, the happier I am. My body is not thin. It is not tall. But it is awesome.
So... Is it working?
I'd say so.
**Note: Muscles in mirror may be smaller than they appear**