VHALKYRIE   16,233
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Calorie/Carb Cycling Followup

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hey there, Sparklers! Hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving!

Earlier in the month I wrote that I was experimenting with calorie/carb cycling. I also engaged in 'exercise' cycling where I varied low and high intensity activities.

My results were...interesting.

On the plus side, I definitely became stronger and improved endurance. Mostly, I attribute to Jillian Michael's workout videos. "30 Day Shred" is tough as nails...and it works. I am a true believer. I consider myself to be an 'intermediate' cardio performer, and 30DS kept me plenty challenged. I saw the biggest improvements in my pushups and cardio endurance using the videos 3x per week. Pretty amazing considering the workouts are only 20 minutes long.

Calorie/carb cycling was also a success. I lost a little bodyfat and weight, and my body was responding.

But there were some downsides.

While 30DS and HIIT were effective, I started to feel signs of fatigue after a couple of weeks. It's frustrating when you want to keep pushing forward, and your body is saying 'slow down'.

So I slowed down, then holidays came around. As many of you know, I've been eating low carb for a year and a half now. With the end of year with birthdays and holidays, I've been eating more carbs, though. Cakes, cookies, breads and pies. I personally believe that when in Rome, don't be a fanatic. I would never tell my friends or family that I can't eat their bread roll or pie because of the carbs. Nor would I push gluten free bread rolls on my guests. If I was gluten intolerant or had celiac disease, that might change things slightly. I just accept that I will be eating more wheat products and sugar than I do at other times of year.

Interestingly, despite my increased carb intake, my weight has been holding remarkably stable. I attribute it to 2 things: regular walking and no store bought processed foods. Even though I have eaten more bread, pies, cookies, and cakes, they have been home baked goods made with little more than flour, sugar, milk and water. I eat one cookie - just one - and that's enough. I'm not tempted to eat more. Just one seems to be satisfying.

It hasn't exactly been entirely risk or consequence free, though. I am certain that I have some sort of wheat intolerance. I am not gluten intolerant or celiac, as those are gastrointestinal, and that is not my issue. However, since I increased my wheat consumption, I had a return of a sinus infection, and an asthmatic like cough. Problems that I haven't had since going low-carb.

This isn't coincidental or due to seasonal infections. I get an increase in mucus production in my nose and throat after eating wheat regularly. It's not a virus because no one else in my proximity is infected. This does not happen if I eat starches. It clears up within a day if I avoid wheat.

Wheat and starches have a lot of calories/carbs, and that does seem to have had an effect on my metabolism...in a positive way, which is going to sound contradictory and odd. Eating low calorie diets for a long period of time downshifts the metabolism so our bodies adapt. Eating more calories shifts the metabolism up so that it burns more calories. Eating high calorie for too long, though, increases weight gain.

So in conclusion, I do believe calorie/carb cycling high/low has merit, at least for me. Finding the balance of how long to go high and low is going to vary per person. Eating low carb makes it very difficult for me to eat more calories since it suppresses my appetite so well. Having a sweet potato on a high intensity exercise day is an easy fit. After the holidays are over, I'll continue calorie/carb cycling, though I'll opt for starches instead of wheat.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KELPIE57 11/25/2012 9:35AM


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KAYOTIC 11/25/2012 9:15AM

    being selective about holiday treats is definitely the way to go...nicely done!

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ZURDTA- 11/25/2012 6:50AM


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MYLADY4 11/24/2012 8:17PM

    Thanks for sharing and I think I will be trying that soon with bananas and sweet potatoes. I have to say that I am somewhat thankful for having celiac, no wheat for me.

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SEPPIESUSAN 11/24/2012 6:19PM

    You're a great writer, and you seem like a really intelligent person. Fascinating blog as always. I like your approach to carbs around this time of year. I've often wished I had the patience and willpower to narrow down various foods to see if any of them are causing me any of my various ailments (heartburn, asthma, complexion issues, etc.). I like that you were able to pinpoint carbs as the cause of some things going on for you!

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FATBASTICH 11/24/2012 1:09PM

    Very interesting observations.

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Why Calorie Counting Didn't Work for Me

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Not so long ago in a neighborhood near you, I was an ardent believer in calorie in minus calorie out. But once I took a close look at the numbers, I noticed that my weight loss didn't follow the pattern. 500 calorie deficit a day did not lead to 1 lbs of weight loss in a week. If the theory was sound, then it should be consistent and repeatable. Or it should at least be close.

The main reason that calorie in minus calorie out derailed my weight loss goals was because of a false sense that I could 'make up' less than optimal choices with more exercise.

"I burned 300 calories on the elliptical, so I can eat ice cream today and it will cancel out."

"I shouldn't have eaten the ice cream. Maybe I'll do another workout today to cancel it out."

I got rid of the idea there are 'free' calories and I can 'cancel' out my choices with more exercise.

Exercise became a form of torture and punishment. I had to exercise to 'work off' my bad choices. It was a terribly unhealthy attitude.

Couple of months ago, I ate birthday cake because, well, it was my birthday! No regrets. I'll do it again next year.

I am now a believer that weight loss is a function of hormonal balance, rather than calorie arithmetic. Exercise we do and foods we eat cause different hormonal responses. Balance of good quality food and moderate exercise leads to good health.

I still track my food, but I don't worry about making the calorie ledger balance. I use food tracking as an accountability tool to make sure I'm eating enough of the right things. It's all too easy to have a treat food here and there, and think it's only occasional. But when I log my food, it's harder for me to have amnesia on whether I had ice cream only once or five times last week.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

2SNOWCRANES 2/25/2013 10:00PM

  good post

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TRIANGLE-WOMAN 11/20/2012 1:33PM

    Great post!


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FATBASTICH 11/14/2012 6:31AM

    I can so relate to this post! Thank you for sharing.

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DDOORN 11/7/2012 12:04PM

    Still working on extricating that thinking: "the idea there are 'free' calories and I can 'cancel' out my choices with more exercise. " It's gotten me into lots of trouble!


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FITGIRL15 11/3/2012 11:15PM

    AMEN, Sister! Us "engineering" brained ones have a hard time with this one... but it's true, calories in can't always be cancelled out by more calories out!!!

I like to think of weight loss as more of a science experiment... if you get AL of the factors just right, you might be lucky enough to tip the scales in your favor, but even get just ONE factor wrong... and the experiment will NOT fly!

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NELLJONES 11/3/2012 9:23AM

    Calorie counting is much easier on the "in" side than the "out" side. I lost weight back in the days before anyone discussed exercise as part of a weight loss plan; it was all about the food. We ate the same plan regardless of how much we did or didn't do. As soon as the though enters your head that you can eat more if you (fill in the blank with exercise) you have missed the point of the discipline required to keep it off for the rest of your life.

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VHALKYRIE 11/1/2012 3:36PM

    NEILITHICMAN: I know where you're coming from, but food we eat isn't converted into energy unless our bodies are able to do something with it. Fiber, for instance, contains calories, but is completely indigestible in our systems. Therefore, we get zero calories from fiber.

Glucose is always used or stored because that is the way our biology developed (glucose used to be sparse). Fat and protein are more flexible, and can be used, stored, converted, or discarded depending on the dominant hormones involved.

One way glucose makes it easier to gain weight is because it doesn't trip satiety hormones the way fat and protein does. A 1200 calorie Big Gulp doesn't make you feel full, for example.

Hyperthyroidism can lead to weight loss due to over active thyroid. Opposite in hypothyroidism. Type I diabetics have difficulty gaining fat due to lack of insulin. These issues illustrates what happens when too much or too little of certain types of hormones are released.

Comment edited on: 11/1/2012 4:29:51 PM

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NEILITHICMAN 11/1/2012 3:25PM

    Agreed that it's not an exact science, I never had exactly 1 pound for every 3500 caloies deficit . But logic still tells us you still need to burn more calories than you're feeding into your body to lose weight. Eating 2000 calories a day, even of healthy food, and then only doing 20 minutes of light exercise is not going to see a drop on the scales.

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LADYROSE 11/1/2012 12:28PM

    "I am now a believer that weight loss is a function of hormonal balance, rather than calorie arithmetic. "

Totally stealing this because it's SO true!

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KWRIGHT26 11/1/2012 10:58AM

    Doesn't it strike you that the articles even here on Spark and across the weightloss website world talk about the calorie deficit idea like it's incontrovertible fact, that you MUST lose a pound for every 3500 calories less, and in the next sentence they say "Well, it won't always work out to exactly this, so don't feel bad if it doesn't... but if you fail to lose exactly 1 lb for every 3500 calories you don't eat, it's you. You failed some way by licking the spoon, salting your hard boiled egg, or missing 1.7 oz of water. This is a physical law, and if you can't lose weight this way, it's your fault."

Okay, maybe it doesn't say it just like that, but the blame is still there shrouded by feel-good buzzwords like "motivation."

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CNTRYGL1 11/1/2012 9:18AM

    I completely agree with you! I did the same thing for a long time! Now that I eat Paleo, the foods I eat are healthy and my body knows when it needs food and when it doesn't. I am not a slave to cravings anymore and I eat as much as I want (of the right foods) and I lose weight. I dont count calories but I do keep track as you said so I know Im getting the nutrition I need. Great job coming to this realization rather than just giving up when the numbers didn't align! emoticon

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ISLANDGIRL2012 11/1/2012 9:10AM

    Good job. It is really more than calorie counting. It is developing healthy eating habits that will stay with you even after you have reached your goal. I'm no math whizz so counting calories was never an option for me, but I found that keeping the food diary and exchanging unhealthy foods for good makes it a lot easier and it is a habit that I know will continue long after I reach my goal weight. emoticon

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Why I Am Fitting in More Low Intensity Exercise

Monday, October 29, 2012

I think there is currently too much emphasis on high intensity exercise.

I'm definitely a practitioner of HIIT, but I don't do it to the exclusion of everything else. There's a lot going for low intensity exercise, but most people dismiss the most basic of exercise - walking - as not being a legitimate 'workout'.

I've read tons and tons of articles over the years explaining why short, intense workouts are just as good as longer exercise. There's lots of articles debunking the 'fat burning zone' myth. These articles explain it's calorie total burn that counts, and more is burned with very intense exercise.

Probably. Maybe. But I have lost 40lbs (and kept it off), and I've never done any jogging that I didn't have to do. Only running from a thunderstorm, or catching the bus.

Especially in the earliest part of my weight loss journey, my primary exercise was long distance and low intensity - hiking and cycling. My heart rate rarely exceeded 140bpm.

Once my weight came down and endurance went up, I started adding HIIT on the elliptical, not usually exceeding 30 minutes. In the early days, I did it believing in the 'calorie burn', but now I do it for another reason. As you know, I don't really pay much attention to calories anymore. "Sprinting" increases lung and heart efficiency, thus increasing oxygen efficiency.

Low intensity exercise is an unsung hero, I believe.

I read an article recently about health care costs, and one of the graphs stuck out at me. It showed the rate of obesity increase in the past 20 years. The United States had the highest rate of increase. Japan had the lowest. We already knew that. But what stands out to me is just how low Japan's rate of increase is. Just about 1% per year.

Here is the article: www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2012/10

Here is the graph:

I spent a lot of time thinking about it, and it led me to where I currently am with my carb/intensity cycling experiment.

Many people believe that asians have low obesity rates because of their high vegetable, low protein/fat consumption. Maybe, but they don't really do this for health reasons in the same way some Americans do. Protein is highly desirable, but it is very expensive. The concept of 'vegetarianism', as in purposely avoiding meat protein, is considered weird.

They do avoid sugary sodas and treats for health reasons. Asian baked goods are far less sweet than Americans are used to. They eat far, far less sugar than Western industrialized countries.

When I was in Seoul, Korea, we walked everywhere. We took the underground metro in order to cover far distances, but we still walked from point to point. I have no idea how much we walked, but it was a lot. All day, everyday.

But it wasn't just my family and I that did all this heavy walking as tourists. It was everyone else, too. People walking to and from work, carrying briefcases and laptop bags. Groups of girlfriends shopping. They didn't take cars to the grocery store - they brought shopping bags and carried them on the metro or on the sidewalk.

We ate everywhere. I don't think there was a single stop where we didn't eat something. I was sure I would gain 10 lbs when I got home. We seemed to never stop eating. Giant bowls of thick noodles. Kimchi soup. Bulgogi and kalbi. Fish and shell fish. Lots of rice. Lots and lots of rice.

When I got home, I was shocked to discover I didn't gain weight. I lost 8lbs. Eating. Not counting a single calorie. And walking.

I didn't see a single native who was overweight.

The other thing I didn't see? People working out in gyms. Here in the US, walk down almost any street in a metro area, and you'll see a gym every other building.

I noticed the same phenomena in France. Lots of walkers. Not many fitness gyms. I walked everywhere and ate whatever I wanted. Pastries, chocolate, wine, desserts, and prix fixe dining. I didn't lose weight this time, but I didn't gain anything either, even eating some of the richest and decadent foods. The only overweight people I saw were American tourists. The locals were incredibly thin and healthy. Even the bakery owners!

While the US has a very serious obesity problem, I have seen a thinner population overall in certain US cities as well. San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. Lots of walkers and bikers. Plenty of fitness gyms, though. Especially in LA.

The fitness gyms in the US may be a necessity for us due to our high urban sprawl and less organization around city centers. Most of us have very busy lives, and just want to get in and out in the quickest amount of time.

However, I am personally coming around to believe that the tortoise may be just as important as the hare when it comes to weight loss and maintenance. Unless I am sick or injured, I am walking at least a few minutes every single day.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SALONKITTY 11/1/2012 7:01PM

    Walking everywhere is so good! I started back up with walking everywhere this summer, and am still going at it, even though the weather is turning from bad to worse here in Glasgow. I walk to get groceries, walk to my gym and back, walk wherever I need to go, providing it's not terribly far. I'm fortunate to live in an area that is far enough from the places I need to go to make them all worthy of a good walk, but not TOO far! Lately I've been really enjoying my walks to and from my new gym. It's half an hour's walk each way. Makes a great warm up/cool down! Also...I've discovered there's a Korean restaurant right on the corner I turn down to go to my gym, and it's got great reviews. I'm excited to try it out, as I haven't had any Korean food since leaving San Francisco two years back. emoticon

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KAYOTIC 10/31/2012 8:45AM

    It's funny because I lost the bulk of my weight on the "European vacation" plan, my friend and I spent 5 months touring Europe pretty much right out of college, and with all the meal splitting, eating healthy, local cuisine and walking everywhere (we were on a tight budget) I lost about 40 lbs without really trying...and have kept it off since. No "formal" diet or exercise plan, just eating healthy and walking a lot.

That said, now I do try to focus on unprocessed food, and getting in my resistance training on a regular basis, but have over the past year started walking more, and am able to stay within my range fairly easily without stressing too much about the food.

I think the everyday activity does help more than we sometimes give it credit for.

Nice blog!

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GREENGENES 10/29/2012 11:45PM

    Yep, plain ol' walking does wonders.

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BTVMADS 10/29/2012 8:29PM

    It makes a lot of sense when you think about evolution, too. Our ancestors didn't just sit around under a tree all day. They walked constantly, foraging for food, hunting game, finding new/changing sources of fresh water, and avoiding danger. Our ancestors didn't sprint to get away from danger or to hunt animals -- they just kept moving at a moderate pace. We're meant to be active as well, and definitely for more than 45 minute stretches.

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GETSTRONGRRR 10/29/2012 6:26PM

    I like it.....i have always been at my slimmest when I've lived in a large city that required a lot of walking. Whenever I move out to the 'burbs....

I was in Istanbul last month and walked miles every day....one afternoon mu nephew and I did 17 miles just touring around!

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NEILITHICMAN 10/29/2012 3:26PM

    Totally agree. I think the most important thing for keeping weight off is consistancy of exercise not the type of exercise you do. I read about one group of people who had managed to maintain their weight loss after getting down to goal weight and the only exercise this group did was to walk at least half an hour every day.

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WOUBBIE 10/29/2012 3:13PM

    Good blog, as usual. :)

When people say that our healthcare delivery system is "second to none" they're absolutely right. It's the most expensive in the world. And we're all still popping pills and having strokes. Depressing.

We're Number One!!!


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CGREEN9310 10/29/2012 1:57PM

  Great blog! The only thing I did after my first pregnancy was the "Walk Away the Pounds"...I had 40 of them to lose and did it in 6 months simply by walking. I have lost 21 pounds since August 20th of this year just from walking (although I started SP in September and the nutrition tracker has helped me with 13 of those pounds). I spent 18 months in Korea and saw exactly what you are talking about. When I wasn't working we walked everywhere and the town I was in was a lot of hills.

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MNJONES2 10/29/2012 1:56PM

    I agree when i was younger in school I didnt have a car, walked everywhere and was amazingly thin and strong. Now I drive and you know the rest.....

I work out in the gym but need to do more walking.... just like you.

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Week One Down

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I've been at 'normal' weight and bodyfat range for a few months, but I'd like to improve more. I'm still a bit more spongy than I would like. I'd like to be closer to 21-24% bodyfat. It's clear that I need to step up my routine. I kinda took inspiration from the P90X line of thought that people who are already fit need to engage more in 'muscle confusion', varying their activities daily so the body never gets comfortable with any one activity.

Week one of my carb/intensity cycling experiment is done. As with any change in routine, it's hard to say whether the first week is 'working' because there's too much noise as my body is adjusting to the change. So far so good, though. I am seeing some general positive indications.

Scale weight hasn't changed much, but that's usually to be expected. I am, however, seeing a sleeker looking line on my abs, and my clothes are fitting better!

The quality of my sleep has improved. I'm getting to bed earlier, and waking up feeling energized.

I'm varying my workouts, and adjusting the amount of carbs/calories I eat in proportion. I'm doing a different activity, intensity, and duration every day. Here's how my workouts have gone this week:

Mon: Elliptical HIIT x 30 mins
Tue: 30 Day Shred DVD x 20 mins + walk w/DH x 30 mins
Wed: Treadmill walk x 60 mins
Thu: Treadmill walk x 90 mins
Fri: Elliptical HIIT x 30 mins
Sat: 30 Day Shred DVD x 20 mins + walk w/DH x 60 mins

My high/low intensity hasn't quite staggered the way I intended, but it still seems to be working. I ended up with a couple of easy treadmill walk days while I worked out sore muscles after Tuesday because Jillian Michaels kicked my butt! I have a couple more of her DVDs on the way to mix things up.

I think my recent stall has been due to not pushing hard enough, so I pushed myself pretty hard. I haven't felt fatigue, so I'm keeping moving. I am certainly looking forward to an easy day on Sunday, though!

Tomorrow will be a very light activity day as DH and I will take an easy stroll down the beach. Hurricane Sandy is passing us by, but she is stirring up some spectacular waves for us to watch.

On lighter activity days, I stayed on the low carb/calorie end. On higher intensity days, I added fruit and mashed potatoes. It hasn't been too difficult for me to juggle, and I don't have to think about it too much.

The end of next week should be more conclusive. So far, it is looking promising.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KAYOTIC 10/29/2012 9:14AM

    Keep up the good work! emoticon

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BILL60 10/28/2012 8:31AM

    Way to go!! Keep that up and you'll be shedding some lbs.

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DEELB1 10/28/2012 1:11AM

  Yes, Jillian can get to you! emoticon

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MYLADY4 10/27/2012 11:37AM

    Thanks so much for sharing. I will be trying this come the new year.

Amazing how Jillian kicks your booty. I have NMTZ and man, that really really kicks the booty.

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How much rest on a rest day?

Friday, October 26, 2012

An interesting point came up on my previous blog about rest days. What does rest day mean? Does it mean no activity, or light activity? How much time does one need for recovery after hard workout days?

I am probably someone who is overly cautious when it comes to working out. I often am guilty of undertraining, rather than overtraining.

Recovery and rest days are absolutely important. We don't build muscle and cardiovascular improvement while we are working out, but after, when we are 'resting'.

There's two types of muscle soreness. Lactic acid buildup, and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Lactic acid buildup is the 'burn' you feel when you lift something very heavy. This is anaerobic exercise where your muscle has burned up available oxygen.

DOMS is the soreness you feel the day after a workout. During intense workouts, microscopic tears occur in the muscle fibers. This is how you get muscle growth.

During a rest day, torn muscle is repaired, and made bigger and stronger. This is highly desirable, and how we improve our physical fitness.

But what is a rest day? Is it lounging in front of the TV? Is it a light workout?

If you experience muscle soreness to the point where you can't walk or lift your arms, then you overtrained. Being unable to move is damage, not improvement. Do light stretching and take a hot bath to ease the soreness. Wait until the soreness subsides before repeating the activity, but ease back the next time around.

A little muscle soreness is good. A walk around the block or park can actually be a good thing. Light activity stimulates blood flow, carrying more oxygen to stiff muscles. But do not engage in a 'workout'. Working out muscles undergoing DOMS will damage them. Many athletes and personal trainers alternate working out different muscle groups on different days to avoid overstressing them.

On my light activity days, I'll take a long, leisurely walk or bike ride - the long, low intensity activities. (I'll write more about the merits of low intensity workouts later). I don't worry about heart rate, or how many miles I go. I go as far as, "What's over that next bend?" or "Oh hey, look - dolphins! Where's my camera?" It's all about having fun: enjoying the sun, the sky, the wind, the sea, and quality time with the DH.

But sometimes on a rest day when I feel 'fatigue' (mind and body fogginess), I'll sit on the couch and read magazines, surf the 'net, or work on my beading projects.

My 'rest' days are usually leisurely, rather than sedentary.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

IRP1114 10/28/2012 10:52PM

    Great points. You are so right. We need to keep all of these things in mind as we balance workouts with daily life. I had rest days on my mind a few blogs ago. I was asking how others got their rest in. Seems like we all have our own ways to fit it in. On purpose, by coincidence or by listening to our bodies.

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DEELB1 10/27/2012 6:40AM

  even the 10 commandments calls for a rest day!

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NEILITHICMAN 10/26/2012 10:30PM

    Getting more blood to the muscles is the way to relieve the effects of DOMS, using the muscle is the best way to get the blood circulating. As you say, doing a workout isn't a good idea but repeating the same exercise that bought on the soreness but doing it at a lower intensity for a short time is the best idea.

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GREENGENES 10/26/2012 9:01PM

    Good points. Rest is relative but I don't think it should ever mean not doing anything. A casual stroll or bike ride makes for a perfect rest day.

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ARCHIMEDESII 10/26/2012 2:18PM

    I like taking a walk or doing yoga on my rest/recovery days. I am one of those folks who IS guilty of over doing it. So, I do need to make sure I take rest days to allow my muscles a chance to rest.

And like you, there have been days I've been so tired, all I could manage was watching retro TV. Kojak anyone ??? Who loves ya baby. LOL !!!

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VHALKYRIE 10/26/2012 2:12PM

    "Given the mounting evidence that being sedentary all day long is lousy for metabolism, I think every rest day should have SOME movement."

BTVMADS: That's where my current line of thinking is going. I'll follow this up more in another blog.

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BTVMADS 10/26/2012 2:07PM

    Rest is relative to what your body is used to doing. When I was at the peak of my HM training, a rest day would be a bike ride and yoga. This week, since I'm in post-race recovery mode, a rest day has been much more lazy (except for the 4 hours a day I'm on my feet teaching).

Given the mounting evidence that being sedentary all day long is lousy for metabolism, I think every rest day should have SOME movement.

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KAYOTIC 10/26/2012 9:59AM

    I really like to push myself, so probably have a tendency to overtrain at times. So I've just recently decided to take a week off (since I have an unexpected work trip back east, it seems like good timing for this) and not worry about working out. Not that I won't do as you suggest are leisurely "active" things, like walking/sightseeing, etc. Just no planned resistance or HIIT or even long cardio activities.

Good follow-up and response to questions the other blog brought up.

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FITGIRL15 10/26/2012 9:47AM

    A person's "rest" day is as unique as any of their workout's are!
We are all on such different paths along this journey! It's really ALL so personalized and relative!

For me, a rest day means no scheduled workout at the gym & doing nothing too strenuous outside the gym either. But that doesn't mean I won't go for a walk on that day... but it doesn't mean I HAVE to!

I like to play it by ear! emoticon
I am so much wiser with my workouts now that I know what it feels like to overtrain!

Comment edited on: 10/26/2012 9:48:08 AM

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JILLITA55 10/26/2012 9:37AM

    I got it all correct. Good blog

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