In my early 20s, I got a lot of migraines.
The headaches would be so bad that if I didn’t pop some Excedrin as soon as I felt one coming on, I would eventually have to force myself to vomit to relieve the unbearable nausea.
As you can imagine, this was not always possible or convenient! In fact, it interfered significantly with my quality of life.
Around the same time, I was also diagnosed with hypertension. This provides context for my symptoms, but I wouldn’t–or couldn’t–change my lifestyle.
Fast forward several years and I’ve cured myself of both conditions.
How did I get to this point? It all started with exercise. Rather, it started with a revelation that my exercise routine, as healthy as I thought it was, was actually contributing to my health problems!
I didn’t see any real changes in my health until I started questioning my long-standing beliefs about exercise and its purpose and role in my life:
1) I stopped exercising so damn much:
I got to a point where I felt run down so often that I had to take a step back and evaluate my priorities: why do I feel so compelled to exercise, despite the fact that I no longer enjoy it? Why am I doing this to myself even though it makes me feel so poorly?
I realized that I was stuck in a vicious cycle: I HAD to work out so much to compensate for all the extra calories I was consuming because the exercise gave me crazy-intense cravings! I couldn’t see a way out because I was so afraid that if I cut back on exercise, I would blow up.
Somehow, I started reading blogs and discovered the link between long-duration cardio and increased appetite. Seeing that exercise-induced hunger is a real thing made me feel more normal and gave me the push I needed to stop working out so much.
It took some patience and courage, but as I decreased my exercise bit by bit, my appetite followed suit.
2) I learned how to exercise for the results I wanted:
I always knew that my biggest obstacle when it came to achieving my goals was my diet.
When I was over exercising, I knew that I was eating too much; I just found it very hard to control what I put in my mouth. When I started exercising less, my appetite decreased. This was great, but I wanted to look leaner and get stronger, not just lose weight.
I did my research and starts experimenting with intervals and circuit training. Instead of working up to a moderate running speed and staying there for an extended period of time, I started alternating sprints and periods of complete rest.
I couldn’t do this for as long as I’d been able to run at a moderate pace, but that was the point: I saved time, AND got more of a bang for my buck.
Adding compound movements to strength training circuits kicked up the metabolic efficiency even further. I started to notice my body changing in ways that I didn’t even think we’re possible, and I had more time in my schedule! It was a win-win.
3) I learned how to use exercise to control my appetite:
I’ll admit that it was very difficult to get control of my appetite, even after I started exercising for efficiency and effectiveness over volume.
However, this was more due to habit than actual hunger. As I got better at eating only when I was hungry; avoiding the common pitfalls that used to befall me and cause me to overeat (especially at night), etc., eating became more intuitive.
I no longer ate the healing portions nor felt compelled to eat every few hours for fear of experiencing hunger and what that might trigger. Astonishingly, changing my mindset and exercise routine were the catalyst; everything else sort of fell in place from there!
4) I learned about the Three Es of Exercise:
In order for me to remain consistent with my workouts and sustain my motivation to complete them over the long term, I need them to be 1) Efficient; 2) Effective; and 3) Enjoyable.
If these criteria aren’t met, I won’t be able to maintain it. And I don’t want to jump from exercise program to exercise program, just like I don’t ever want to be on a diet again.
Cardio strength training workouts that are 20 minutes or less are efficient by virtue of the fact that they make the best use of time.
It’s a no-brainer: I can get more results in 10% of the time that I used to spend working out!
There may only be 24 hours in a day, but when you once again have about 20% of that time back, it’s like the days automatically became longer!
Of course, no one’s going to stick to a workout plan that isn’t effective: it could be efficient and enjoyable, but if the results aren’t happening, it will be short-lived.
These workouts not only give me back precious time, but they are a hybrid of both types of exercise that we all need: I get my conditioning and improved cardiovascular output, and I get stronger bearing weight and resisting gravity.
And last but certainly not least–I have to like how I move. I have to enjoy the efficiency and the effectiveness of the workouts! Enjoy-ability is the fulcrum around which the other two criteria rotate because what’s the point of exercise if it’s not fun?!?!
5) I learned how to make indulgence work for ME, not against me:
I don’t know about you, but I like to eat. But I also enjoy feeling and looking my best, and that means looking like I work out, fitting into my clothes, and feeling confident in my skin.
I like maintaining a certain level of leanness, and over the past year or so, this has become easier to do because I understand more about how the body uses food to generate muscle (and fat).
My efficient, effective, and enjoyable workouts helped me bust through plateaus in my results because they are extremely effective for muscle-building.
The body is most insulin-sensitive after an intense sweat session, which means that a meal that’s higher in calories won’t cause blood sugar to spike as much. Those extra calories are more likely to be used by the body to grow muscle instead of be stored as fat!
Exercise should not be burdensome: it should contribute positively to our lives, not detract from them. Don’t be like me and ignore the signals your body is sending to you! Chronic conditions like my migraines and hypertension were my body telling me that things were not adding up.
Changing the way I exercised helped me to bring everything back into balance, once and for all.