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09/26/2015

Get Off the Treadmill and Onto the Mat - Same Results, Different Approach


In 2009 I was diagnosed with a neurotransmitter disease. It presented with side effects of adrenal fatigue, but what unfolded was more complicated than I could have ever imagined. At diagnosis the doctor explained to me that obesity is the biggest side effect, and that I would be over 200 lbs for the rest of my life, and the chances of ever competing again would be impossible. After the shock of the diagnosis and prognosis wore off I was determined to beat the odds. At my follow up with my doctor I started a journey to true health and ultimately my happiness, although I didn’t know it at the time. He explained to me that most people are unwilling to eat a restrictive nutritional lifestyle and learn what it really takes to be healthy. From that day on I used my already extensive background in nutrition to learn everything I could about the way the body uses nutrients and what it takes for the body use energy most efficiently. Although I could speak extensively on the nutritional side of this journey that’s not the point of this article, but I did think it was important to explain what started my journey.


Identifying the issues that would hinder my progress was the first step. Other than nutrition the number one factor was extensive cardiovascular exercise. I had always controlled my weight by doing steady state cardio, either running or aerobics. If I used this approach it would cause my neurotransmitters to produce more and more Cortisol and lead to my obesity. It was specifically at that time that I looked for other approaches to controlling body fat. I was a mediocre and uninspired yoga participant at the time. I was telling a friend that teaches one of the most popular yoga classes in Santa Monica about my situation and he suggested Power Yoga. This started my journey and six years later I’ve controlled my body fat through nutrition, weight training, and Power Based Yoga Classes and am continuing to compete, getting my body fat down to 7% while still building muscle. What is most important about my journey are the things I learned along the way that could change the face of fitness for so many other fitness enthusiasts.


The antiquated philosophy of steady state cardio for fat loss is ultimately hindering people's progress. The three biggest problems with steady state cardio are that it burns muscle, is injurious, and places stress on the adrenal (hormone) system. So how can yoga take us to the same place?

Most people have the perception that yoga is lying on the ground in corpse pose with little or no movement, and to be honest I had the same misconception. When I attended my first Vinyasa Flow Power Yoga class I was blown away by the intensity of the class. It was much like a High Intensity Interval cardio session. There were very intense quick Vinyasa Flow segments that were followed by holding and twisting power and strength moves. Although the class was still 1 hour and 30 minutes, much longer than a typical cardio session, the added benefit of stretching, strength, and stress relief made this an all inclusive workout, offsetting the time commitment.


As we age, especially as women, our ability to build muscle is hindered, partially because of our age and lack of adequate hormone production, but also because of our increased injuries. It is not enough to work hard lifting weights in the gym, but secondarily we need to hold onto every ounce of muscle we make this one of the most significant benefits of getting off of the treadmill, and onto the yoga mat. There is zero catabolic effect from yoga. The muscle we build will be spared at the same the fat is burned.



Although many people enjoy the stress relief of steady state cardiovascular exercise, the wear and tear on the body can be great. From shin splints to back problems and everything in between there are very few clients that are successful at keeping their body fat low with steady state cardio and remaining injury free. This is because the more cardiovascular strength you have, the more difficult it is to get your heart rate in the aerobic training zone and therefore the more intense the workout must become. This creates a tremendous amount of strain on the body, thus resulting in injuries. The most impressive part of Yoga is the holistic benefit it has to the body. Yoga is an incredibly kinesthetic (moving the way the body was designed to move) form of exercise. Because your body was designed to move in this manner it will not only heal many injuries but it will also prevent many injuries. Secondarily, because Yoga is one of the most ancient forms of exercise dating back to prior to 3000 B. C., it offers historic proof of its safety. As yoga has evolved it has only become safer, as science has evolved. So again, although the commitment of 1 hour and 30 minutes of yoga vs. 45 steady state cardio might be viewed as a convenience there is an enormous benefit to healing and preventing injuries.


Probably the most important benefit of integrating Yoga into your program is the hormonal benefit. Although it has many hormonal benefits I want to focus on Cortisol, the flight/stress hormone. Increased Cortisol causes the body to store fat. So running/steady state cardio over a long period of time places stress on the body and can cause an over production of Cortisol.

Conversely there is little to no stress placed on the body during Yoga, therefore Yoga has a balancing effect toward Cortisol and with the same energy expenditure will lead to fat loss.


 

In addition to the noticeable benefit of replacing steady state cardio with Yoga for balancing Cortisol, there is an additional benefit to your adrenal glands. We know that the concept of adrenal fatigue has made an appearance in the last few years. There is some evidence that steady state cardio is one of the contributing factors to adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is caused by undue stress placed on the body. This stress can be physical, but also mental or emotional. The reason that this is concerning is the adrenal glands must operate efficiently in order to produce hormones effectively. If your hormones are imbalanced the health consequences are real.  Again steady state cardio places additional stress on the body, whereas Yoga has zero risk factors as it relates to adrenal fatigue.


So the primary question people want to ask is how to lose weight and gain back their health. Steady state cardio can help you lose weight, but at what cost? Yoga, on the other hand, can help you lose weight with a whole host of benefits. Calorie expenditure, stress relieve, and stretching are the most noticeable benefits of integrating Yoga into your health and wellness practice. Although it might be challenging in the beginning, if you continue your commitment to the journey then not only will you become more flexible and stronger, but you will see your body change through fat loss: your unlitmate goal.

So here is my challenge to you: Get Off the Treadmill, and Onto the Yoga Mat...what do you have to lose??