If a little is good, more must be better, NOT!
We live in a culture of extremes where it seems if a little is good, more must be better. This isn’t the case as I have been experiencing. Read on and find out more of how the saying goes “when you pick up the stick, you pick up both ends.”
As many know I ain’t 25 anymore. And despite being a little more mature I still tend to apply my 40+ years of experience + effort these days. Basically, knowing myself and limits means I know how to push the boundaries to find new heights. Often, I also think I can recover from these efforts like I used to. Guess the joke is on me, ha, ha.
One thing for sure is I can’t get away with what I used to. Food, drink and exercise tend to linger on me long after activity has ceased. Whether the consequences are in the head(ache), around the waist or in my muscle and joints, recovery takes longer. Sleep, rest, recovery, nutrition and lifestyle are so much more important now and not only that it works!
Over the last year I have experienced a hiccup or two, whether it was high triglycerides/cholesterol results on some routine blood work or the most significant experience of tachycardia while exercising. Basically, things are starting to show up that youth provided some form of immunity to in the past. Of these things, it was the tachycardia (abnormally high heart rate) that bothered me the most. Think of going for a walk and you are strolling along when you heart jumps up into your throat and starts beating 200+ beats per minute.
Hands up who has done things as they have always done and all of a suddenly the result is different. Feels like a betrayal of sorts eh? That’s how I felt.
All total, in the last year I experienced 5 bouts when my heart rate would skyrocket. I joked with a buddy of mine and said we’ll make this new “Special High Intensity Training” (ha, ha) program that has people doing such high intensity intervals that it triggers a tachycardia and then instructs people to bear down and do what’s called a valsalva maneuver to rectify the abnormal rhythm (this happens by stimulating the vagus nerve). Build enough hype around it and we’ll sell millions. This was obviously a joke and my attempt to make lemonade out of the lemons. I repeat, this is a joke. But no doubt there are those that think if they put together an “insanely” intense enough exercise program it’ll sell.
Through discussions/consults with several Professionals in my own network (sports medicine doc, exercise physiologist), my family doctor, emergency room docs (note: both of which didn’t know much about exercise), a cardiologist, my own training and research (guess I like understanding things through and through) it boils down to too much sympathetic activity (the fight or flight response) triggering an extra heart beat and things take off from there (211 beats per minute at one point!).
Too much adrenalin (high intensity exercise, stress, caffeine etc.) which seems to be highly touted in our culture can trigger negative changes in your body. But hey, the way I look at is my heart has beat on average 70 beats per minute for 40+years, so I guess a little hiccup isn’t such a bad track record.
So it’s all about making use of the experience and passing on good advice and guidance. As an Exercise is Medicine provider this has enabled me to look critically at my own experience but also evaluate and question the safety of high intensity exercise. And whether as an athlete, Personal Trainer or Massage Therapist I have always approached the “no pain no gain” perspective with doubt as to its real effectiveness. The following quote I read a long time ago sticks in my mind now makes a lot more sense from an experiential perspective:
“The difference between Professionals and Amateurs has always been that Professionals view intensity as a powerful drug”
Joe Friel, cycling coach
On a go forward basis it’s important I treat myself professionally as I have always done with my clients sustainable, long term results. This is “law of the farm” thinking that require us to think long term, to take the time and prepare the soil, plant the right crop, then water, weed and tend to the crop in order to get the best possible harvest. Health and fitness are very much the same style of process: build your base, add volume, then modest amounts of intensity.
So take it from me, yes you can develop two years of fitness in 6 months but there are risks to muscle and joints and to the heart. You then have to ask yourself, are you weighing the pros & cons or does the trainer you are working with know the risks and benefits associated with their guidance? If you have doubts seek out a second opinion or consider meeting with a CSEP-Certified Personal Trainer for assessment. And in the case of having a pre-existing health condition know that if these fitness Professional also carry Exercise is Medicine Canada provider status they can help you extract all the benefits of being physically active without the risks (from firsthand experience, studying the books or both!:)