The question I get most frequently (besides what kind of workouts I do or is barre the only thing I do) is about how much or for how long I work out daily. People are generally surprised by my answer. “Sometimes ten to twenty minutes a few days per week. Anything longer, like hiking or riding a bike, is always at a leisurely pace.”
I used to kill myself in the gym, and back then, I thought I could handle it. My body bounced back quickly, without the aches and pains of overuse or wear and tear. I was unaware that, had I kept up that pace, I was setting myself up for issues down the road. Thankfully, I found the Lotte Berk Method and learned how imbalanced I was!
The owner of Lotte Berk, Lydia Bach, was very opposed to any kind of “cardio” other than walking. While I don’t go that far- I recognize that we often find pleasure in many fitness styles and I don’t want to discourage you from something you truly enjoy- I believe Lydia’s philosophy was ahead of her time. There is mounting evidence about the potential negative impact of too much medium and high intensity cardio. Since entering my 40s, I have become very aware of how depleting excessive exercise can be. (Wait until the book I just reviewed is released!)
I am often tagged in SBF Group posts or get private Facebook messages about creating longer workouts or workouts that hit that “perfect spot” for people. I must admit, sometimes I am frustrated by how we measure our own success: by our weight, by our intensity in exercise, or lately, by the length of our workouts. I am frustrated when we focus on what we perceive is wrong with us, be it our “baby abs,” our “cellulite,” or our “inhibited flexibility.” I am angry with an industry that is selling a lie that we are not good enough unless we kill ourselves in our workouts, whether in the gym or at home. In our heads and hearts, we are buying that we’re still not good enough!
I want us to get out of “fight or flight mode.” I am done with long or punishing workouts that produce no better results, and even worse results, than my short ones. As obsessed as I am with bouncing and barre, as an advanced exerciser, I can easily fatigue a target muscle group in less than 10 minutes!
Sometimes, I choose to work out longer than that. I may take someone’s hour-long studio class, but I am watching the clock and do not ever, ever, ever want to go over that hour. Last year in NYC with Bethany, our SBF manager, we attended a class that was so fast moving, so intense, with never a pause or a break (and no AC!) that I left halfway through! I started seeing spots and everything blacked out, like I was going to faint. Looking around the room of clients I thought, “This form is dangerous! What is the point of this? Why would anyone want to do this to themselves over and over when we can get an efficient and far more effective strength-building workout, in less time AND without the yelling instructor?”
I know it’s confusing. One organization tells you to get 60 minutes of aerobic activity per day (or you’re a loser!). This extreme sport/boot camp instructor tortures you and then yells if you stop or need water or vomit (and you’re still a loser). Finally, when the person looking back at you in the mirror, the one listening to the wrong voices, sees a reflection that isn’t a fitness meme- yet again, you feel like a loser.
<Insert a Feeling of Rage!>
That said, I love to get the heart rate going up and down while increasing my circulation as I move. I love the life-giving oxygen that cardio movement brings to my cells (and to my mental state!). However, I choose non-punishing cardio and I will continue to advocate against anything erratic, punishing, or too intense. I never want to feel my head pounding or my heart beating out of my chest because I’ve just done 50 suicides-with-a-high-jump-wall-slap in a row. (That actually happened to me at 32, participating in a bootcamp class and I kid you not, that head-pounding-for-hours-after experience was my lightbulb moment! That was what led me to introduce my style of teaching in that gym.)
I get it. If you are just IN LOVE with a set number of time, then I say, great, that’s where you get your groove on. But if you could effectively workout an entire area or even multiple areas at once, why be attached to the time on the clock? After you have fatigued your muscles, what more do you need? (Probably more stretching, walking, or bouncing!) I am here to tell you: avoiding too much sitting, increasing awareness during your workouts, connecting your mind to your body, and reducing your stress will have a far greater effect on your weight, your calm, your limberness, and your aging than logging any punishing 30-60 minute workout ever could.
More, harder, and longer are not better in terms of workouts. A quality workout is better. Good form is better. Doing something that brings you joy is better. Laughing is better. Walking is better. Fresh air is better. Laughing while you walk in the fresh air is exponentially better. Get the drift?
Personally, I love bouncing, walking, hiking, and the feel good intervals that are often mixed into my routines. If I am ever doing a cardio move that is too intense for you in one of my workouts, modify! I am often the first in class to drop my weights or slow my pace. Why? Because I am unfit? No. Because I am fit and good form and listening to my body are Number One.
I never want us to feel beat up after another workout.
I never want us to feel bound by perfection.
I never want us to believe another lie from an industry that has kept us bound by the belief that we are not good enough. WE ARE!
**Please keep in mind that doctor ordered daily brisk walks either outside or on a treadmill are completely 100% advocated here. Walking daily to elevate heart rate and blood flow does significant advantage to your heart, mind, and mood. It is important to always follow your healthcare provider’s orders. My point in sharing this article is to emphasize overexertion and punishing cardio is more than simply “not fun”. It can actually be stressful.**