The Goldilocks ratio of exercise
The Goldilocks ratio of exercise
When you think about exercise are you filled with dread and overwhelm with memories of physical education and sport at school – the thought of getting off the couch and getting moving simply seems too hard because your recollection of sport or exercise was doing things that you didn’t enjoy, you weren’t very good at or were no fun?
Or are you a complete exercise nut who is always genuinely in their active wear – who loves being at the gym, running, cycling, working out, or doing the latest exercise fad be that cross fit, Pilates, HIIT, bootcamps or hot yoga?
Either way, what if I were to say that whichever camp you are falling into – be that the couch potato or the ultra-fit athlete – there is a potential that you are doing your body harm.
Too little exercise is well known for the impacts it has on our health and wellbeing, increasing the risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. But what of the impacts (literally) of too much exercise?
And then we must also consider the quality of the exercise and not only specifically the quantity.
Can there be too much of a good thing when it comes to exercise?
There is a balance between activity and health: as we increase activity we see health benefits increase also, but if we start to overdo it then the scales tip where too much exercise becomes more detrimental than beneficial. This tipping point occurs when we exercise too much or too hard, do not allow proper recovery, or are chronically under-fuelling our body.
Signs of overexercise are:
- Physical burnout
- Hormone dysfunction
- Impaired metabolism
- Poor immunity
- Increased cardiovascular stress
- Decreased performance
- Chronic injury
Overtraining exerts a negative effect on the stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that can lead to emotional lability, trouble with concentration, bouts of irritability, depression and difficulty with sleep. Certainly not the types of outcomes we are seeking if exercise is to be one of the keys to wellbeing and health.
All too often people get caught up in the buzz they get from exercise or they are so fixated on looking a certain way, achieving a goal weight, pushing for a personal best and so forth, and in doing so override the messages from the body that they are doing too much and pushing it beyond its capabilities without honouring that it needs to rest and stretch to adapt to the new intensity and workload.
I know from my own past experiences with endurance sport how easy it is to push your body beyond its bounds and end up either injured or ill, on the edge of chronic fatigue and physical breakdown but all the time thinking you’re fit and strong and healthy because you can run for miles, lift heavy weights or get your heart rate up into its anaerobic threshold.
And this is compounded when we don’t adequately fuel the body as we want to be lean and ripped or slim enough to fit a certain dress size. This is especially true for women who have been sold the exercise more eat less model of losing weight or staying thin. Eventually starved of nutrients the metabolism slows down and inevitably weight gain ensues which then creates the urge to exercise more and eat even less in a never ending tailspin of not being able to keep the weight off as the body tries to hang on to its nutrient reserves.
So how do we find that Goldilocks ratio of exercise?
The Goldilocks ratio, as I like to call it, is the balance between being active, strong and fit as well as healthy. A balance where you exercise within your capabilities but also stress and rest the body enough during your workout and in between your workout days to allow your body to recover, as well as build strength and endurance.
Exercising in this way means you don’t have to be pounding the pavement or the treadmill for hours doing cardio or spending masses of time at the gym. In fact, it has been shown that a 20 minute weights workout with weights that are slightly heavier than you can manage to do more than 8 repetitions with is more than enough to not only build muscle mass but also sustain it.
Then on non-workout days the key is to be active but in a way that allows your body to destress and be at ease, like slow paced walking, swimming and stretching for example. These more gentle slower paced activities help lower your cortisol and reduce overall physical and mental stress.
So, I’ve talked about quantity, but what about quality?
We all know that if you are going to exercise, especially if you are lifting weights or doing squats for example, that you need to have good form otherwise you are likely to get injured or not benefit properly from the exercise.
Good form means standing and moving in the correct way to engage the desired muscles while protecting the joints and muscles from injury. Form will look slightly different for everyone as we have different shapes and sizes and ranges of motion or flexibility, but there are key principles that apply like engaging your core or keeping your weight over your feet by making sure your knees are soft and so forth.
It is important to honour and go with the way that your body is made to move rather than trying to emulate the form or movement of another, as well as it being important to understand that your form will vary from day to day based on how you are feeling and where your body is at. Just like some days your hair looks great and others you have a bad hair day. The reason this fact is important is because we need to learn to be more aware of the body and its needs on a day to day, moment to moment basis and not try to make it do something that in that moment it simply can’t. Just because you did something yesterday doesn’t mean you don’t or won’t have to do it differently today. This in exercise is called a modification. A modification respects your body’s capabilities.
But form is only one part of the quality of our movement and our ability to make the physical form perform, as we must consider what makes our body move.
Physiologically we can say we have a thought, and then a nerve impulse gets fired from the brain and jumps across synapses along the central and peripheral nervous system until it reaches the end of the nerve that then signals the muscles to contract or stretch as required to perform the desired outcome, like a bicep curl or hamstring stretch.
So, the brain sends an electrical signal to the muscles to make them contract. The physical contraction also involves the use of neurotransmitters and minerals like sodium and calcium to fire the muscle cells into movement.
Once the nerve signal stops, the muscles relax and wait for the next signal. Thus, the muscle is not the source of the impulse to move but merely the recipient of the information to which it responds.
If this is how movement of a muscle works then is it a step too far to consider that our whole body (including our thoughts) is not the source of its movement but merely the recipient of a signal, impulse or energy that makes it move (or think)?
And if this is the case then where does that source of energy come from?
It is a well-known fact in physics that everything is energy and energy can neither be manufactured or destroyed, and in metaphysics that it is a life force that sustains our life until the time of the death of the physical being.
But we must take an additional step beyond that as if we explore the teachings and the teachers of The Ageless Wisdom throughout time, it has always been known that there are two types of energy – that of the spirit or that of the Soul.
By now you may be wondering what the heck has that got to do with exercise but I urge you to bear with me as I’m going to ask you to stretch yourself a little further.
The spirit is a lesser version of The Soul, the true One source we are from – The Universe or God if you like. The spirit is the being within the human body and likes to have dominion over its physical vehicle while it seeks to explore what it, the spirit, can create. Whilst the Soul if afforded connection and access is the beingness in the body that honours the body and the fact that it is made up of particles that contain all that The Universe is, having come from and being a part of that Universe just as a drop of water comes from and is a part of the ocean.
Both the spirit and The Soul can be considered as sources that communicate with and impulse the body by providing the source of energy that then transfers to thought and movement.
Thus, if we are aligning to move and exercise our body in a way that will allow it to be truly fit and healthy, then the quality of what we source as the impulse that will then signal the body is quite significant, as one source will allow the body to push beyond its means (or remain the potato on the couch) while the other source will support the body to be active and know/understand what is needed to remain with and within that quality or source or energy field at the same time.
Therefore, not only do we need to be active, have good form and use the Goldilocks ratio to exercise, we also need to first and foremost know what source we are tuning into to do so.
The ability to tune into the source comes from listening to the body, choosing to be gentler and more self-loving with ourselves and developing a connection to the quality within. This may mean at first that your exercise routine and capabilities dramatically change while you develop that connection so that you can move and exercise in that quality.
The goal of exercise on a physical level is to be fit and healthy, whereas the goal on an energetic level is to move and exercise in a way that allows more connection and access to your inner quality and beingness. By developing a relationship with your Soul, the two can go hand in hand as the Soul will always impulse you to move in a way that will offer you true health, wellness and vitality.
And here is the real Goldilocks ratio to exercise: movement in connection to the Soul = exercise that supports the body to develop a fitness with energy, awareness, love and multidimensionality as well as being physically fit.