Exercise and Fitness: Questions & Answers
Vital Health Zone is proud to announce Gina Jackson, who is our resident exercise and fitness expert and who is available to answer all your questions about exercising and fitness. Gina has a private practice and is available for consultation.
Gina answers all your exercise and fitness questions below:
Q: I have been running 4-6 miles about 4-5 times a week on the stair-master or cross-trainer or treadmill and I also take a one hour exercise classes (eg weight training, cycling, kickbox, or just machines) about 4 times a week.
I eat my normal diet, which hasn't changed much recently. I am a vegetarian and it is a semi healthy diet, with a little oil, sufficient carbohydrates and lots of green vegetables.
I have been doing this exercise regime for the last 5 months and initially I lost some weight, but lately the scale says that I have actually gained weight. At first I assumed that could be muscle however, my inches are not longer going down, nor does it seem like anywhere in my body is losing anything anymore.
I just finished medical school (I know, I should be able to answer my own question then) so my life outside the gym consist of stress and sitting in front of the books for 14 hours hours a day, studying for the boards.
So what am I doing wrong? Obviously I was initially doing something right so my diet can not be the sole reason? What do I need to do differently to what am I doing now to start losing weight again?
A: Well, you do have a sense of humor and that is a good thing. You might need to use it a bit more to let go of some of the stuff you are holding onto that seemingly is causing so much stress to your mind and body.
For example, 4-6 miles x 4-5 times a week PLUS 60 minutes classes 4X week is quite a bit of exercise. My first question is when do you rest? How and when do you relax? When do you allow your body to recover? Sounds like quite an excessive amount of stress on your muscles, joints and mind in the "doing" of being healthy.
Find a Balance
You shocked the system with the high intensity regimen 5 months ago and reached a plateau. Your body has adjusted to the demands you have placed on it and in order for your system to "survive the stress" you are placing it under (without rest, recovery and relaxation), it has gone into warrior "fight" mode and is seemingly holding onto the fat stored in the system as the body needs it, (or thinks it does) to survive the fight. Consider reading and understanding a little more about catecholamines; made by nerve tissue, the brain, and the adrenal glands. Catecholamines help the body respond to stress or fright and prepare the body for "fight-or-flight" reactions.
The adrenal glands make large amounts of catecholamines as a reaction to stress. Catecholamines increase heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, muscle strength, and mental alertness. They also lower the amount of blood going to the skin and increase blood going to the major organs, such as the brain, heart, and kidneys.
- Relax more to bring down stress hormones and burn fat.
- Try meditation, visualisation, deep breathing exercise programs.
- Balance your high intensity exercise with complimentary practices such as pilates, yoga, tai chi, and/or meditation to manage stress.
- Get a massage; use a sauna bath
Alternatively, you could try, the use of interval training to help boost adrenaline/noradrenaline response. Going too hard, too often, all the time, will result in the body becoming overstressed and not recovering, as your body is currently signaling you. It leads to more muscle loss and more stubborn fat gain. Use a short interval session (like 10-15 min ON) then, add a slower intensity exercise, e.g., stability ball stretch, to help burn the fat now released into the blood stream and not overstress your body’s ability to recover.
In short, one day ON, next day OFF. On the off day, keep laughing and have fun.
Engage in more fitness for your health!