The other day we looked at using our energy systems efficiently by training them all and pushing our upper limits. Today we look at balancing workouts across the spectrum of intensity. On one hand, to impact metabolic changes (i.e. better energy utilization, blood glucose use, ATP production, blood pressure regulation, etc.) we have to workout with a high enough intensity. On the other, we need to train both our sympathetic system – the one that wants to run and fight – and our parasympathetic system – the one that wants to rest and digest. Both are important in the human ability to manage daily life.
If you spend all your time hyped up, under stress, and vigilant for any challenge, you are not truly present in the life around you. Instead this hypervigilant state keeps you hyper focused looking for danger, negative things that may impact your ability to survive, and narrow your experience of life overall because life options are too overwhelming. This creates a pattern of focusing on the negative – guess what you find when you put your attention somewhere? More of what you are attending. Attend the negative and you’ll find a lot more of it. Attend the positive and you’ll soon see how much goodness surrounds us.
In our society much of our daily activity could be focused in the sympathetic system. Our high intensity workouts can impact this system. Exercise creates stress on the body and raises inflammation rates; however seems to do so in an effective way that also assists in metabolizing the stress hormones it creates, unlike living in a stressed out state where inflammation wreaks havoc on our body systems. To balance out the sympathetic overload many of us live with, it is important to balance your workouts with a parasympathetic activities, too.
Adding items like quiet reflection – noticing your mood, the environment around you, colors/sounds/the feel of your clothing/mat/breeze, changes between the pre and post workout mind states, mindfulness of the body following a workout – where do you feel stronger, longer, lighter, what is the sensation of these areas?, and mindful movement like yoga, tai chi, gigong, 5 rhythms dance, authentic movement flows, or ecstatic dance (think bursting into dance in your kitchen and loving it) – into your daily routine and used as active rest or even a full workout in their own right are very important to creating a balanced workout week and helping the body embrace all the positive benefits you are creating by allowing it space and rest to “digest” the changes you are making.