Exercising regularly without regular results? In this day of boot camp, “go hard or go home” advice, and all-too-common adrenal fatigue among women at half time of life, this discussion from You Still Got It, Girl! deserves some real estate today!
“A hard workout only creates the potential for fitness.”
Fitness is realized during the rest and recovery period that follows exercise. The amount of fitness improvement you get is determined by the type of workout stress and the amount of recovery you have.
A workout slightly harder than your body is used to doing requires less recovery. You’ll be ready for another workout in 48 hours.
A workout that is a great deal harder requires a longer recovery period.
Forty-eight hours is the typical recommendation time between strenuous workouts, at least for younger individuals. Older adults often do best with 72 hours between strenuous workouts. If your workout is strenuous or high intensity no matter what your age, longer recovery is called for.
Strenuous workouts include anything that is “hard,” so a hard weight workout and a hard interval training workout – especially one with high impact may require time between. That’s a new concept. You’re likely used to thinking that cardio is different than weight training and doesn’t require recovery between. It depends. You might be able to perform a short high intensity interval training on an elliptical, bike or rower, or in the pool sooner after a hard weight training session since these lower impact exercises are less stress on the body.
Signs You Need Rest
Fatigue that you feel after a workout is mother nature’s way of preventing you from going right back to it and tearing your body down. An exceptionally high level of fatigue, indicating a very stressful workout is a risk. Combine it with too little recovery time and you’re on your way to overtraining. Overtraining is the opposite of overcompensation. As an older adult you’re at risk for losing more muscle, slowing your metabolism, and increasing fat storage if your body is under this kind of stress.
It’s individual. I’m often asked after women read You Still Got It, Girl! or have heard me reference this overtraining phenomenon, “Could I be exercising too much?” My answer has to be in the form of questions.
- Are you experiencing an increase or decrease in your usual appetite?
- Is your usual sleep worse right now?
- Are you more tired most of the time or energized most of the time?
- Do you have brain fog?
- Are you frequently sore, even when you go to begin another exercise session?
- Do you feel like you’re losing tone and seeing an increase in fat in spite of your efforts?
Boot camp sessions done daily 6 days a week are not ideal if you factor in everything written before this sentence. Typically consisting of hard workouts day after day, boot camps by the end of the week increase breakdown from 1.) the exercise 2.) lack of recovery time, and 3.) the stress of any typical work week that sets in even before it’s finally Friday. That combination will increase breakdown and inhibit your recovery. A better schedule would be a mid week day off, and alternating hard and light days such that the light days actually facilitate recovery – something many of us won’t do well for ourselves.
Signs You Need Reboot
At the other end of the spectrum, easy workouts day after day result in a loss of fitness, too.
If you’ve been walking the same route, distance and speed most days of the week for months or years even, and it’s your sole form of exercise, it’s time to change. (You could insert, elliptical, swimming, or your form of exercise for walking).
The path to fitness at every age is to alternate your need to create fatigue, then reduce fatigue. As we age, we have less wiggle room and need to pay more attention to keeping it between the navigational buoys.
The two best recovery facilitators are sleep and nutrition.
Sleep Your Way to Top Shape
Sleep during peri-menopause or after (including long after) can be tricky. If that’s the case for you, your exercise and recovery needs will be very different from that of your workout partner or others doing the same boot camp as you.
Eat Your Way to Fitness
Getting adequate calories is a big part of recovery. Protein is especially important for aging athletes (yes, you ARE an athlete!), along with nutrient-dense foods rich in antioxidants that help reduce inflammation (caused by exercise levels that will change your body) and enhance metabolic processes that speed recovery.
If you’re playing that game of exercise more, eat less to create a caloric deficit, there’s a strong chance you’re hindering recovery. If you’re tired often, you’re injured often or chronically now perhaps, or just don’t seem to be making progress no matter how often or hard you work, flip your equation.
It’s not just quantity, but timing of those calories and protein that matters. It matters more after 50 than before. There are hormones at play here too. Eating around the clock with specific amounts of macronutrients timed to improve results on a daily basis is essential. Then pre and post exercise fuel needs to be on purpose rather than by accident too. This is not your daughter’s, mothers, or your husband’s exercise or nutrition plan. For flipping 50 you want to create that unique-to-you (and those ever-loving hormones) plan.
The non-intuitive answer is, exercise less and recover more.
Only then will you reduce the breakdown of your body so that you can increase your metabolism and burn more fat. You’ll finally begin to feel good both when you exercise and between exercise. Exercise will be serving its purpose better – helping you live your life more fully enjoying moving through it with energy at choice for doing what you want to do!
The key to less exercise, is more purposeful exercise. No more random acts of fitness. You can, and you should, feel great while maintaining a reasonable exercise schedule that enhances life.