Feeling great can be described as the experience of ultimate clarity, peacefulness and relaxation, but within the context of being optimally energized. Sounds contradictory, but when you have experienced it yourself, you know exactly what I mean.
There are three main tools to help achieve this enjoyable state of being: breathing exercises, quiet self reflection, and exercise.
Exercise is probably the most accessible tool for most people.
People exercise for different reasons, competition, body composition, and life extension. Those are all great reasons but deal with the future and cause people to lose interest and stop if they don’t achieve those goals.
I personally am most interested in exercising to get the endorphin high and feel great now! Not because it should make me live longer, or achieve better health.
Let’s face it, we are pleasure seekers and if you get an immediate sense of pleasure you will probably continue.
What specific exercise routines allow us to most experience these pleasurable benefits? Luckily there are many and all have their merit. First, it should be understood that exercise is like medicine and is very specific for each person.
The Exercise Concept Most are Missing: Intensity
If you are new to this it is important to start slow and work up. The two important exercise concepts to understand are volume and intensity.
Volume is the length of time you exercise while intensity is the difficulty the exercise entails. Most of us have been trained that volume is important, however, it is intensity that gives access to that inner pharmacy of feel good hormones.
What this means is that you can have a great work out in 15-30 minutes that will leaving you feeling focused for 4-6 hours.
On the other hand, if you are working out more than an hour and you are older than 40, you are actually depleting those feel good hormones. There are exceptions to that statement particularly with professional athletes and highly trained athletes but for the rest of us mere mortals:
when it comes to exercise, shorter is actually better especially if you are over 40!
The principles for accessing endorphins can be applied to most types of exercise. Yoga and Tai chi achieve it through breathing exercises which when done with a qualified instructor can be profound. These types of exercise are great for people who feel they may not be so physcial or don’t like to sweat.
Don’t think of yoga as just gentle exercise though, there are many styles that emphasize strength and cardiovascular conditioning. I love all the styles but most observe an immediate energy shift through Kundalini.
Short, High Intensity Exercise Helps Balance Hormones
If you are the type that goes to a gym to do treadmill work or likes to walk, I encourage you to add some higher intensity sprints of 30 seconds or less to your workout. These can be done on a bike, treadmill, walking or running.
Give yourself a 1 minute break after each all out sprint. If you are new to exercise wait a few weeks until you have some basic conditioning. Then start working on more intensity and less volume.
You can start with 2-3 sprints which can be as gentle as fast walking to all out sprinting depending on your conditioning. Remember your body produces the feel good hormones when it thinks it’s in danger so you have to push a little harder but it can be brief.
If you like weight training, instead of waiting after each set, just immediately go to train another body part that is either non-related or an opposing muscle group. So if you are training your back, immediately after your set, train your chest with no break in between.
The whole body can be trained this way in less than 25 minutes.
This protocol has been developed by a group called super-slow and is very effective. Charles Staley has written about a method he calls escalated density training which I find very effective. By the way, strength training is very important for women and you will not get bulky from doing it but just reveal your natural curves.
Crossfit has really mastered the shorter workout and has developed dozens of options that will leave you feeling fantastic in less than 15 minutes. It is important to have a good coach to guide you through those workouts as form is important to prevent injury.
Intensity requires a little bit more recovery time, especially if you are over 40. Some people with poorer recovery times may benefit the most from two sessions a week. Over time this will improve. The goal of this program is how you feel the day of the work out. Like any skill, it will take time to perfect and individualize for you. If you don’t feel much the day of the workout you may need to train harder but briefer.
If you are fatigued you may need more recovery or a shorter workout. As time goes on, experiment with how to access the inner pharmacy at times when you wouldn’t normally think of exercising, such as when you feel sluggish.
There has been some recent research that this type of exercising can really increase the production of our natural hormones, including growth hormone. In time, I suspect research will show that all of the hormones critical to health will show an increase. I also think this type of exercise is the safest way to help balance hormones as long as it is coupled with rest and relaxation between sessions.
Remember the golden rule of exercise: shorter and more intense will lead to restoration of health and hormonal balance whereas a longer, steady state can really lead to depletion and fatigue.
So here’s the basic prescription to help balance hormones and get an all access pass to that powerful pharmacy within: 2-3 all out, high intensity sessions of 30 seconds or less on a bike, treadmill, fast walking or running with a one minute break in between, allowing sufficient recovery time between sessions (as little as 2 times per week if necessary due to age or health status).
Let the inner pharmacy instead of the drive-thru pharmacy start working for you!
About the Author
Dr. Mark B. Frank has been in private practice in Zephyrhills, Florida since 1981. He has traveled the world studying acupuncture, homeopathy, functional medicine, chiropractic and functional neurology in an effort to understand how the human body heals.
He is currently practicing with his daughter Celeste Holstein D.C. Their practice, The Frank Clinic of Chiropractic, is located at 38040 Daughtery Rd, Zephyrhills, FL 33450. The office phone is (813) 788-0496
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