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Why Intense Workouts During New Coronavirus Pandemic Are Not ...

Apple Watches
Media Lab
Northwestern University
the Northwestern Medicine Athletic Training & Sports Performance Clinic
SELF.For one
the Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Condé Nast
Affiliate Partnerships

K. Aleisha Fetters
Mike T. Nelson
Kourtney Thomas
Renee Engeln
Jim Beitzel
Allison Tenney
Lisa Lewis
L. Kevin Chapman


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Positivity     46.09%   
   Negativity   53.91%
The New York Times
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I first noticed the trend when, early into stay-at-home orders, several of my typically nonexercising friends started inviting me to share my workout info and “compete” with them through our Apple Watches.While I was glad they were focusing on their physical and mental health, I also noticed some more troubling things: They had astronomical daily goals for calories burned, were performing hours of high-intensity workouts seven days a week, and never logged a single recovery workout—say, like a leisurely walk or gentle yoga session—as a break from the intense stuff.Despite the fact that I take a pretty even-keeled approach to exercise, both for myself and the clients I train—I’m cool with pushing hard, but also prioritize recovery and think exercise should be fun and feel good—I increased my own goals to level out our “competition” field. Stress primes our bodies to move; it’s like pent-up energy that we need to let off to regain a sense of calm.Plus, amid all of that stress, cramming our bodies into tightly regimented exercise routines can also give us a sense of control—something that’s obviously very lacking as we deal with the uncertainties of the new coronavirus pandemic.Simply scroll through Instagram or other social media, and you’ll likely see more high-intensity, grueling workouts than ever before, with captions warning of the “quarantine 15” or encouraging us to make the most out of our newfound free time. For both fitness veterans and newbies, going hard can feel like the only worthwhile option, online strength coach Kourtney Thomas, CSCS, tells SELF.Although these body-negative messages are nothing new, they are currently capitalizing on our need for control right now, psychologist Renee Engeln, Ph.D., director of the Body and Media Lab at Northwestern University and author of Beauty Sick, tells SELF.Many of these kinds of workouts are squarely focused on burning calories and “making up” for the fact we’re at home so much now. It’s that recovery from exercise that allows the body to adapt to exercise, and grow stronger and healthier, he explains.When you’re already in a stressed state, prioritizing long, intense workouts, max heart rates, and big caloric burns—especially when skipping on rest days—minimizes the physical returns on workouts completed and can lead to potential injury, Allison Tenney, CSCS, tells SELF.For one, the regular exerciser generally doesn’t employ appropriate recovery strategies to sustain these intense or long-duration workouts, she says. So if you do a high-intensity circuit one day, the next day your cycling workout should be on the light side.By spending your workout time engaged in activities that you find the most enjoyable, you’re automatically more likely to approach your workouts with a feel-good rather than a negate-comfort-foods mentality, Thomas says.Unfortunately, though, with many of our gyms closed right now, a lot of us don’t have access to the equipment or space that we usually have for our workouts. If you still feel tired, weak, and like you want to curl back up on the couch, that’s a sign that today’s best spent on recovery, Thomas says.Speaking of recovery, yes, even though we spend most of our nonworkout time right now sitting on our keisters, we still need to incorporate intentional recovery into our routines, Tenney says.Dedicate at least one day per week into pure recovery activities such as foam rolling, performing gentle mobility exercises, doing some yoga flows, or simply stretching.Process goals are things like “Do X minutes of yoga in the morning” or “Do Y push-ups every day,” while outcome goals are things like “Lose Z pounds” or “Master a handstand.” The former are far more conducive to a balanced relationship with your workouts and their intensity, L.

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