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Thread: The exception to the rule of "chronic cardio..."

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2011

    The exception to the rule of "chronic cardio..."

    I've been Paleo/primal for nearly two years and have really embraced every aspect of this lifestyle as much as I can. Obviously grains have been gone since day one; I've upped my saturated fat; I use ample coconut products; I've experiemented with different quantities of carbs; I've experimented with dairy elimination; I'm all but off of fruit; I've dialed in my sleep and my stress... I've pretty much run the gamut of Paleo hacks and have found a pretty good place that works for me.

    The exception being the exercise thing.

    I've been a fitness instructor for 18 years. On average I have taught anywhere from 8 to 16 fitness classes per week, for the entirety of my adult life. Ftness classes are, typically, an hour long and at a fairly high level of intensity. The majority of clases I teach (as any truly GOOD fitness class should be) are based on the principles of interval training, but... you're still doing it for an hour, so by its very nature it's not like HIIT, which one should only be able to sustain for a couple dozen minutes at the most - if they're doing it right. And in fact, I typically do it for TWO hours, teaching back-to-back classes, just to make my time at the gym more worthwhile.

    So I'm pretty conditioned to two hours of fairly intense, somewhat intervalish exercise per day. But like a good little Paleo peep, I learned that I'm probably overtraining and hampering the best possible outcome I could have from this lifestyle change. I learned that my body is probably holding onto fat as a result of the cortisol secretions induced by my overzealous workouts. I learned that I may be in a cycle of "reward eating" after my hard workouts (although, I don't think I am... but maybe!). All the things that you read about where chronic high-intensity exercise is pooh-poohed in the Paleo world. I bought in to every other aspect of this way of life and I was bound and determined to buy into this one too.

    So I scaled back. ONE class per day only - no more doubles. I'm down to 5 classes a week, and filling in the gaps with other workouts (LHT, sprinting, long walks).

    All things being equal - my Paleo diet still as in check as it has been for nearly 2 years - this decline in my quantity of sustained intense exercise has caused my body to turn squishier/doughier/less-dialed-in than it has been in, well, two years.

    I'm trying to be smart about it: maybe my mental stress at my sudden decrease in activity is causing a cortisol belly! Maybe I need to eat two fewer eggs in the morning since I'm not burning as much! ... oh, but wait - I'm not supposed to care about calories-in-calories-out...

    It's playing havoc with my Paleo brain because as I keep trying to make this new less-chronic-cardio* lifestyle work for me, the only thing I believe will get me back on track and loving the way I look and feel is to ramp back up to double-digit classes per week.

    I wonder if once a body has become conditioned to this sort of quantity/intensity, if the PB fitness plan might end up being... not enough? Don't get me wrong: LHT and sprinting is very high in intensity; but maybe I'm conditioned to two hours of moderate intensity versus <20 minutes of high intensity.

    *The workouts I did were not really "endurance workouts" like Mark's had been, and may not be considered totally chronic cardio (especially since a good portion of my classes are of the strength and conditioning variety, and not technically "cardio" at all). I think if one were to go from long, sustained, steady-state workouts to something short and intense like sprinting, heavy weight lifting, Crossfit, etc. the changes are noticeable. But to go from long-duration interval exercise to short-duration interval exercise... maybe something gets lost there.

    I'm a little sad that 2 hours of exercise per day may end up being my baseline. I was looking forward to retiring from fitness and growing old gracefully with long walks, heavy weight lifting and maybe some dance and yoga thrown in for kicks. Bummer.

    Do you think this is possible? Does anyone else have a similar story? I know this comes dangerously close to the Calories-In-Calories-Out belief structure - which I DO NOT believe in - so I'm treading lightly...
    Last edited by ErinC; 09-18-2012 at 10:53 AM.

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