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February 18, 2021
Welcome to Season one of my self-care series: Physical Self Care. This week I will be talking about exercise, a key to good health. Every week in this self care series I try to come up with a new goal for myself. I've already started eating at the same time every day (for the most part), have improved my sleep quality and am falling asleep faster, but this whole week I was struggling to come up with an exercise challenge. I even asked my friends on my IG to give me some ideas.
In this episode I am going to share what my personal goal was and how I suddenly at the end of the week switched gears. I will also get into some biological chemistry information that I learned and why I even went researching there in the first place. Lastly, I will share a little more personal information about myself as well as talk about how much exercise is the right amount.
Honestly I felt kinda lame that this was my goal. It didn't feel good enough. But what kind of goal should I have done? I was already working out 4-5 days a week, I can run for an hour without stopping, and I take turns on strength training different muscle groups.
For example, Mondays I work legs, Tuesdays is abs, Thursdays is back, and Friday is arms and shoulders. Keep in mind this is in addition to one hour of cardio each session. So what goal should I add on to this? I could only think of changing the workout time.
Besides, in my sleep episode, I learned in order to sleep better, one should not exercise near bed time (which is what I was doing almost all my life). So instead of working out after dinner, I changed to working out after lunch. The results? The whole process this week shocked me.
I felt really good during and after the workout. I also had more energy during the workout and a few minutes after. However, I often got headaches afterwards that would last until I fell asleep that night. I was also very tired in the day, which was something that I couldn't figure out.
Everyone says that exercise during the day is supposed to increase your energy levels, right? Why wasn't that happening to me? I fell asleep easier at night, but during the day... I just felt like I was always struggling energy-wise. It was so frustrating.
"Was I losing motivation?" I asked myself. To boost my motivation levels I started to watch Exercise Physiology and Biological Chemistry videos on Youtube while running on the treadmill (nerdy I know, but I got signed out of Netflix and forgot the password). I learned many fascinating things, and I'll share two with you here.
1) Where does fat go if you lose it? This I actually already knew, but it was fun for me to see the chemical formulas and listen to how Ruben Meerman described how our body gets rid of fat in this video, which you can find here.
He asked many people on the streets where the fat goes, and surprisingly, nobody had the correct answer. Some said it goes in the toilet, some said it gets burned into energy, and others just said they didn't know. To sum up the video, due to the law of conservation of mass, no matter can be created nor destroyed, it can only change. So fat cannot literally be destroyed or burned, it just changes into something else. He then showed this super simple chemistry picture as below.
The elements in fat are basically Carbon, Hydrogen, and Oxygen. Those are the same elements found in the CO2 we breathe out, and the H2O in our bodies. If we want to lose fat, we just have to have to exercise, inhaling oxygen, and then fat actually comes out as carbon dioxide and water. But it needs energy to do so.
This video was so inspiring as I was running, gliding like a gazelle, feeling myself breath heavily as I tell myself; "This is fat coming out of my mouth." Funny, but true. As inspiring as this video was, it still was not the thing that shocked me in my research.
2) Exercise is the most trans-formative thing that you can do for your brain today" - Wendy Suzuki As I continued running, I watched another YouTube segment on exercising and the brain. I came across a speech by Wendy Suzuki, a super high energy ball of fun who is also a professor of neuroscience. You can find the video here.
She mentioned that the Prefrontal Cortex, the temporal lope, and the hippocampus all get effected by exercise, and they all have to do with our memories. The one she was particularly focusing on was the hippocampus because every time we exercise, the body actually produces new brain cells in the hippocampus, thus increasing its volume and improving long term memory.
She talked about many other things as well such as how exercise increases levels of dopamine and serotonin. Wendy said all we need to do for our brains to reap the benefits is 30 min of exercise 3 - 4 times a week. I was already doing way over that level. I thought to myself, why do I feel like my brain is often foggy? Why do I feel like my serotonin levels aren't where they should be?
The next day after that extra long YouTube inspired workout, I was very tired. I was dreading going to the gym. Honestly I was kinda sad. And feeling lost. I took two naps. I couldn't resist. Then the guilt set in. I texted Jerry, telling him that I was so tired today, feeling like I can't do anything, and that I was guilty about being unproductive.
He then said something that I never saw coming.
"I think your workouts need to be more balanced. Maybe your doing more than you realize".
I read his text and laughed. There's nothing wrong with the way I workout. I'm used to strenuous exercise. But then I started thinking. Maybe he's right... I started to google "how much exercise is too much" which after a few minutes led me to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition which you can find here.
Perfect, I thought, this is instructions from the government. After finding the section on adults and the required amount of exercise, they recommended 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes to 150 minutes a week of vigorous intensity exercise. I scrolled down to see what kind of exercise is considered "vigorous". Yep, you guessed it, jogging or running was on the list.
Then I counted up my minutes on the treadmill. On some weeks, I was doing up to 300 minutes of vigorous exercise in running alone. That's double the recommended amount. Add in my strength training and I had up to 600 minutes a week. No wonder I'm so tired during the day. My body is trying to rest from all that vigorous exertion... Sorry body.
I then found an article from truworthwellness.com that mentioned overexercising can lead to hormonal imbalances including our stress hormone cortisol which can drive overeating. The body can also begin to burn muscle instead of fat, thus may cause our body to hold onto or gain fat, particularly abdominal fat.
To have a goal of exercising less, this should be an easy one right? One would think so. But the thought of it makes me a little uneasy. Could I be addicted to exercise? No way, that's crazy! I mean when you look at me, you would never guess that I'm addicted to exercise. I look very average.
But then when I think back about days where I was supposed to exercise that day and for some reason it didn't happen, my anxiety goes through the roof. It's kind of a laughable matter, but maybe this whole exercise addiction is true.
Then I started thinking, back when I was a teenager, no matter what my home situation was like, the gymnastics gym was a haven. I could spend hours there, jumping on the trampoline, tumbling, practicing new floor passes.
When I found out my university in Taiwan had a gymnastics gym, I was there all the time, blowing off steam. Had exercise become my crutch, my safe place? It is the only place I allow myself to watch Netflix by myself (on the treadmill). It in some way brings me back to my childhood. As a child, the gym was such a happy place, full of positivity. When the Corona-virus broke out, one of my number one concerns was "will they close the gym?" Was this five days a week, 2 hours a day gym routine starting to take a toll on my energy levels?
To know the answer to this question, I guess I will just have to do a one week experiment. It really makes me sad, having to reduce my treadmill time. But for the sake of the experiment I will do it. For one week, I will alter my workouts, only doing 30 min of intense cardio and then 30 minutes of strength training. Starting tomorrow. After one week I will write down my progress.
Be sure to check out my IG here for daily doses of raw footage. I love you all and have a fabulous day.
How long do you workout per session? Comment below!
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