Saturday, March 28, 2015

Energy Monkey

I've been reading a book recently called "The Running Revolution" by Dr. Nicholas Romanov.  Since I'm going to be starting my running training soon for my triathlon I wanted to pick up a book and see what I could find.  This one drew my attention because it says on the cover "how to run faster, farther and injury free for life."  All of which sounds good to me.  The book talks about technique, and gives a training program on how to train you to run in a more natural style, the way we would run if we hadn't grown up with shoes.  It's the way the Kenyan's run and if anyone has read the book "Born to Run" that is based on this running style.  I'm going to give the program a shot, no sense in starting running and setting myself up for more injuries, we all should know by now that me and injuries don't get along.  Anyway, that's not the point I want to get at for this post.  At the back of the book Dr. Romanov talks about an experiment done with monkeys.  They studied spontanious energy activity and they saw basically three variations of activity in monkeys that was then deemed that individual's base activity rate.  Some animals were very sedentary, some were moderately active, and some were very active.  The scientists then placed the animals in various situations sometimes limiting their activity, sometimes increasing their activity.  What they found was that if an animal's activity was controlled, either increased or decreased, that animal would spend the rest of the day making up for it to achieve activity equilibrium.  Basically if an animal was confined and unable to move for half a day, the second half of the day they would be much more active and at the end of the day they would even out their energy expenditure to what it normally was for that animal, either low, medium, or high.  If they increased their activity for the first part of the day, they would make up for it the second half of the day by reducing it's activity and by the end of the day that animal would again reach it's own personal base line.  This pattern held true for weekly tests as well so at the end of the week, the animal reached it's average weekly activity rate.  This whole research experiment is brought up at the end of the book because Dr. Romanov was talking about how to gauge how much exercise you should do and how often you should train.  You have to figure out if you are a small energy monkey, medium energy monkey, or a large energy monkey.  If you try to train beyond your energy limits your body will backfire on you, you will hit plateau's and your training will actually hinder your progress instead of improving your performance.  Some people train three times a week, some people need to train 4-5 and some rare people thrive on training 7 days a week.
You can increase your energy levels and your activity levels but there is a certain limit for every person that their body can take.  There is only so much improvement that you can attain.  As you lose weight and get more fit your energy levels will increase of course, but you will eventually have to find that happy medium of what is right for you.  Not everyone can exercise two hours a day 6 days a week. 

I'm now going to jump to an email I received from the Half Size Me Community earlier this week where she was talking about the relationship between binge eating and exercise and how to know if you are exercising too much and if you have a healthy relationship between the two.  In this email Heather talks about how she was working with a client who would push herself to her limits and beyond at the gym until she was so exhausted she wanted to collapse, and she left the gym starving and ready to pass out.... (I know you've done that too- I've done it many times).  This was a wonderful email and I will only highlight a few parts of it to make my point.  Here is a direct quote from the email "if you are like my client and struggling with binge eating, too much exercise can make it worse. When you are already tired and still force yourself to go to the gym and run on the treadmill for an hour, then stumble into the house, only to clean, cook and do all the other chores you feel you “should do,” before you know it, your body will drive you to the kitchen to refuel on whatever is there.  You may end up eating a carton of ice cream, bowls of cereal or handfuls of chips or cookies. Your body is sending you signals it needs a break, but you keep pushing it like a taskmaster until you hit a wall where your body says no more, and demands food and a break."

These two stories coming pretty close together along with my recent injuries hit me like a brick in the face.  I've been trying desperately to stop binge eating, I've also been trying desperately to exercise a lot more in order to lose weight leaving me exhausted for the rest of the day and starving.  I can keep it up for a few days but then it eventually blows up and I crash.  I noticed this cycle a few years ago and now I wonder if it could be as easily solvable as laying off exercise.  I want to be a big energy monkey, I always wished I were a big energy monkey, but I know I'm not.  I'm probably not a small energy money either, but maybe, like most things, somewhere in the middle.  When I was doing really good and losing weight in 2013 I was exercising three and sometimes four times a week.  It wasn't until I tried to exercise 5-6 days a week that I really noticed the pattern with binge eating, and energy crashes.  I'm not talking about the afternoon crash that happens, I'm talking about two to three day crashes where I'm so exhausted I just want to sleep all day.

Obviously my activity level was way too high over the past several weeks and my body broke down because it couldn't handle the stress.  I need to be kinder to myself, kinder to my body and just focus on living life, not on getting the weight off as fast as I can.  I'm going to pull back on my exercise and see if that helps me keep my eating under control longer, see if that helps the cravings, helps the energy crashes, and helps the intense hunger that comes around every three days or so.  Four days, that's it.  I will not allow myself to do an official workout more than four days a week and no longer than one hour.  I need to let go of trying to workout for two hours a day 6 days a week.  It's not healthy for my body, my mind or my spirit.  Hopefully I will discover my sweet spot, and I can keep my eating under control for much longer than 4 days.  It's a marathon, not a sprint but the sooner I can figure out a happy way to live, the sooner I will be able to be happier and move on.  

There is more I want to talk about on this topic but this post is long enough already so I will leave you with this super awesome picture of me at the park.  I bought a new shirt and I love it!!

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