We’re going to be talking about a couple subjects this week that I don’t particularly like discussing. It’s not that they’re difficult subjects or I have issues understanding them. It’s that I suck at them, and the people around me are always happy to let me know that.
Yes, the areas I am weakest in are “working out” and “sleep”.
The problem with exercise is that everyone has a different understanding or stigma about it which ends up being the largest roadblock to it in the first place. We see the workout videos with people doing insane things and getting ripped. People go 6 easy weeks using this great DVD set and they loose 150 pounds and look like action stars! Or people go to gyms and look AWESOME! It’s so easy to get in shape and you can do it with only $2 down and $2 a month! You’d be stupid not to go for something so cheap and foolproof, right?!
Well, this is where the other side of the equation kicks in. It’s hard to do intense workouts like the ones they sell you when you’re already past a certain point in the fitness department. Those people on the TV show who are loosing weight for prizes aren’t also working a full job, with kids, and whatever else they need to do in the day (not to mention it’s hard to have a perfectly balanced diet every day for weeks when it’s YOU who has to make everything). And the pitfalls of starting up at a gym are manifold; it takes time, it takes you away from home, it can be awkward to go alone when you’re starting out.
But here’s the rub: not only do those workout methods really work for people, but those arguments are also very valid!
The issue comes down to what people conceive as “working out” in modern days. Thanks to those DVD fitness program and popularized TV shows, many have come to associate that high intensity/high impact workout as the only way to loose weight. And if you can’t do that, then why bother doing anything?
“But Zuke, you can work out at home too! Just a couple hours every other day will get a great workout in and you’ll be noticing the effects in no time.”
And you’re absolutely right! Except there are two things going against you right there; 1) I’m going from having NO workout endurance to expecting to make it two hours and, 2) if you find someone with two hours of completely free time who is doing nothing other than sitting and staring at a wall, they have bigger issues than just their fitness.
We all need to decompress each day. It’s as vital to our health as being fit in the first place. Some people relax by working out, and more power to them. Some people have a favorite show, and some just surf TV in general. Some game, some browse the internet, and some read. It’s all necessary for a happy and healthy psyche. But so is the ability to see your toes and pick up your kids without fear of killing yourself.
Things aren’t hopeless, however. It turns out there’s a complete other part to working out that you can still do even in your free time. While those long workouts and insane “work you into puddle of sweat” videos DO help you lose weight, they aren’t the only way to control your weight. The other is already inside you, resting comfortably: Your metabolism.
We all know that your metabolism is the rate at which you burn fuel to provide energy. If you’re like many geeks, you don’t expend much energy during the day and so you don’t need to burn much. If what you eat outpaces what you burn, the rest is stored on your body as fat. If you’re only burning 15 calories a day in activity, good luck getting under that in intake.
Workouts help you burn calories by using the fuel in your food and fat. However, the effect is actually much longer lasting than that. When you work out, your metabolic levels (as well as heart rate, hormone levels and a bunch of other things) actually stay increased for an extended amount of time. Reports go back and forth as to how long this is, and it probably depends greatly on the person in question, but I have personally felt my energy levels and metabolism increase starting from 6:00 AM and go until almost 2:00 PM with just a 10 minute workout.
Yeah, 10 minutes. In particular the 10 Minute Trainer from BeachBody. It’s harder than I thought it’d be and I am in no way keeping up with the people on the video, but it’s been enough to kick my body’s engine into gear every morning and start burning the food I’ve been putting in. It is in no way a total workout, nor do they claim it to be. However it has taught me that even 10 minutes of brisk activity is enough to jumpstart any system into working throughout the day. All this in the time I normally would have been arguing with my alarm clock in the morning!
Whatever you find that works for you, just make sure you do something vigorous enough to get your body’s metabolism running. And then do it again the next day!
I am particularly bad at this one. It’s not entirely my fault, however. The issue at heart lies with our lack of a normal cycle. We wake up, typically skip breakfast, sit in traffic, sit at a desk, sit back in traffic, and then (typically) sit to decompress like I described above. At no point does our body ever actually wake up in the first place, so at no point does it decide “yup, I’m exhausted”. Instead, computer-dwelling people typically only go to sleep when their mind is ready for it, as their body is unable to give them the proper signals.
Of course you don’t need me to say what happens when your body doesn’t get enough sleep, as every doctor in the world will tell you about them at length. I, myself, would average 4.5 – 5 hours of sleep a night and while my mind was still functioning well I was also gaining weight at an accelerated rate, my blood pressure was going through the roof, and I wasn’t exactly the happiest person when I was awake.
So this one should be easy, right? Just sleep more!
It isn’t so easy, especially for us in front of the monitor. Scientists have found that when your eyes are viewing light, it actually suppresses your body’s production of melatonin (the chemical your body uses to signal sleep). The iPad you’re reading to help put you to sleep? It’s keeping you up. Randomly surfing channels until you can conk out? It’s also keeping you up. Same with the internet, and any other source of light around you.
The key to making your body want to sleep is actually up in the other part of this post; exercise! By making your body wake up your metabolism, you also wake up its natural cycle. At the end of they cycle, your body is naturally going to want to sleep (barring any sort of psychological or neurological condition).
The key is to find out what your body’s bare minimum activity level is to not only keep your metabolism going for as long as possible, but also be worn out enough at the end of the day so you want to sleep!
Thinking of it as gaming the system!