Timing Your Exercise
The Right Exercise at the Right Time: “When people think about exercise, they usually think in terms of building muscle or losing weight or making up for bad eating. Exercise is so much more. It’s a chance to breathe fully, to work and build muscle, to burn fat if you are doing it at the right time, and to feel alive in your body.
Ayurveda is the art of bringing balance to your body, and exercise is a sacred daily ritual. Through exercise and movement, you breathe deeply and unblock the body’s channels and bring blood and oxygen to your brain and entire body. You improve communication between systems so they can operate in harmony. Exercise is an emotional reset to put your daily problems on the back burner while you enliven your heart and mind. It improves your energy & mood, and cleanses your body.
A sedentary life in contrast causes you to breathe only shallowly, which strains the heart and starves the brain. N New research shows that even low-intensity exercise can reverse symptoms of general fatigue if you do it every day.
Get out of bed and do some exercise before you eat or do anything else. It gives your body an undeniable signal that the day has started. Dr. Suhas describes how sleep (or lack of sleep) affects the body’s circadian rhythm. So does eating or restricting the hours in which you eat. A third mechanism by which the body tells time is activity. When you are physically active, the body logically assumes it’s daytime. Morning exercise will help you get to sleep at night (by increasing nighttime melatonin production) and is especially beneficial to your circadian rhythm as you age. People who find a way to stay naturally active through walking, exercising, and yoga, are in the best position to age gracefully and live longer.
A recent study showed how med could reverse the effects of a high-fat diet by exercising before breakfast. Rather miraculously, they didn’t gain weight if they exercised before their first meal, but if they exercised later in the day, after eating one or two meals, they did gain weight (even if they exercised harder). The new research on clock genes holds the clue (clock genes signal cells to do one thing during daylight hours and something else at night). When you exercise before breakfast, you are exercising while the body is still fasting. SO when you exercise hard enough to trigger your muscles to switch from burning oxygen to burning sugar, your blood has less available sugar to feed them. As a result, the body is forced to tap into fat stores, and just 20-25 minutes will do the trick!
How much exercise do I need? A single intense bout of morning exercise is so important. It starts the cycle of activity and rest first thing in the morning. Thirty minutes is probably enough, as long as you augment it with more movement all day long.
You can be on a treadmill, rowing machine or outside (natural light is tremendous for your body). If you are new to exercise then try interval training, in which you are walking as fast as you can for a minute and then walking at a more leisurely pace for 2 minutes (or jogging & alternate with walking fast) You don’t need to kill yourself. The goal is to sustain a burst of intense movement until your breathing changes. At the point where you feel that you need to breathe through your mouth, you should slow down for a recovery period of lower activity. You want to be working at the edges of your ability, working in bursts and then recovering (panting and straining puts undue stress on the body).
The key is consistency and do exercise every day. If you haven’t exercised in man y years, start by walking briskly every morning even if it’s just 5-10 minutes and then work up (or start with 5-10 minutes of sit-ups, or isometric exercises). By doing this you have unblocked your system every morning and breathed deeply to clear your mind. Nothing invigorates your body like daily exercise. Exercise quickly aligns your sleeping and waking cycles and creates energy in the body, lifting your mood and opening the channels so that you can make better eating choices throughout the day.
The Right Exercise for You: Read this chapter to discover your exercise type, or combination of types.
Variable Exercisers: You need exercise that can engage your mind along with your body, & exercise can be a struggle at times due to your variable energy levels. You are doing fine as long as you are breathing deeply, getting your heart rate up, and moving your whole body. Pointers: Stay mentally engaged in your exercise. Do exercise first – morning exercise is a kind of meditation, and the deep breathing & gentle sweating will put your mind and your body on the same page. Less is more – look for grounding exercises that increase flexibility at a more relaxed pace (yoga, Pilates, tai chi, cycling, walking or hiking). Make time to warm up. Hydrate all day – if you are struggling with fatigue after increasing your workout routine, dehydration is likely the cause.
Strong Exercisers: No other activity shapes your body and clears your head like a daily trip to the gym. Pointers: Leverage your love of competition and intensity (sports that combine exercise with competition like basketball, racquetball, or martial arts). Avoid lunchtime workouts (have more acid in stomach at mealtimes than other body types, and morning workouts offer you an emotional reset first thing so you can face the day calmly and with greater focus). Log your progress. Stay cool (hydrate & may benefit form a cool shower after workout). Check your recovery period. Try relaxing exercises – you need intense exercise AND relaxing exercise that builds mind-body connection (like yoga).
Light Exercisers: You struggle to get motivated to exercise, but you need exercise as without it your body takes on excess fluids and you feel sluggish (try walking outside or on a treadmill). Pointers: Do your workout early & do anything that makes you breathe deeply (exercise is better than coffee to make you focus & feel alive). Go the distance as your body type has more endurance (do well with power walking, rowing, hiking, distance running or biking). Be sure to sweat to get out your retained water & toxins. Observe good technique. Connect to your body (notice the natural high after exercise).
The Body Through the Seasons: “Just as the body relates to the changing light during the course of a day, the body also changes in relation to the seasons. Even your blood pressure & cholesterol levels change seasonally, and so does your body’s need for food, exercise, and sleep. Blood pressure goes up slightly in winter and down in summer. So does your cholesterol and inflammation C-reactive protein, and the immune system is less active in the winter (especially the genes that suppress inflammation). If you have any troubles with this, please call us and see one of our functional providers to help you seasonally. You can change your schedule to help you cope with the physical challenges that each season presents for your body & emotional health. Your diet, exercise, and sleep need to adapt to the changing seasons. And you have to listen to your body and pay attention to how your body feels in each season in order to make the right changes.”
The seasons of Ayurveda are supported by the research into how the seasons affect the body. The three dominant seasons are – spring’s growth and moisture (kapha), summer’s hot productivity (pitta), and late fall/winter’s dormant dryness (vata). Also, when the season matches your Ayurvedic body type, you are at most risk for being out of balance (so you must be even more careful to listen to your body and make the needed changes for your health).
Kapha Season = Late Winter to Early Summer: This is the season of growth & moisture, and the body is primed for growth & exercise. It’s also a time when the body naturally wants to shed toxins and fat, which means you can generate more mucus and be more susceptible to colds & seasonal allergies.
- Sleep: As daylight comes earlier, you should be waking up earlier. Get as much natural light as possible, like a walk before work & at lunch. This natural light will help lighten your mood & open your body to the spring energy. Your sleep will get lighter, so keep insomnia at bay with steady exposure to natural light and exercise.
- Exercise: This is the season of lethargy, and exercise is the best medicine to combat this feeling. Do a morning routine that builds strength and flexibility.
- Diet: Reduce heavy oily foods and introduce spring vegetables, such as asparagus & sprouts, as you prepare for warm weather = bitter greens ( more green vegetables like spinach, cabbage, broccoli, sprouts, asparagus, onions & peas), leaner meats (because your body may be retaining water & making mucous, stay away from dairy; except you can mix with cinnamon and warm milk at night to help you feel drowsy in the evening & this lessons its effects on congestion), dried fruits (in small quantities), lighter oils, and warming spices (all spices & especially hot spices open up nasal passages and cause flushing of toxins; and decrease salt to keep your body from retaining water)
Kapha Balancing Tea (New Year until early June): Helps your body prepare for this season, and includes warming spices that promote cleansing of extra fluids, aid digestion, help regulate blood sugar, and give you energy.. 4 c ups water, 1 tablespoon cinnamon or crushed cinnamon sticks, ¼ teaspoon turmeric, 1 tablespoon natural sweetener (honey, rice syrup, agave), 1 teaspoon grated ginger… In a medium saucepan, boil the water, then add the cinnamon & turmeric. Add the ginger & sweetener and boil for 2 minutes Strain & serve!
Pitta Season = Early Summer to Mid-Fall: This is the time to follow nature’s lead and be more active, work on your goals, and get outside.
- Sleep: The brain is more active during this season, so you can sleep less while still feeling refreshed. This does not mean staying up late (so be sure to wind down around 8pm even though it may still be light), nut getting out of bed at the first light will be easier.
- Exercise: This is the season to be outside (best first in AM to avoid overheating), and no matter what your body type, endurance peaks in this season.
- Diet: You can better tolerate a varied diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits (favor bitter, astringent, and sweet) = raw vegetables (especially from a Farmer’s market, & stay away from root vegetables), less meat, moderate dairy, vibrant fruits, healing oils, savory spices (less hot spices as they add to heat).
Pitta Balancing Tea (June to the end of October): This helps the body deal with the heat & activity of the summer season. These herbs help cool the body, kindle the digestive fire without heating the body, & reduce inflammation… 4 cups water, 1 tablespoon crushed or chopped mint leaves, 1 tablespoon crushed or chopped spearmint leaves, 1/8 teaspoon saffron fibers, 1 tablespoon natural sweetener (honey, rice syrup, Sucanat) optional… In medium saucepan, boil the water, then add the min & spearmint leaves. Let it steep for 3 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat & let it cool before adding the saffron and sweetener, if you choose. Strain & serve cool, but not with ice
Vata Season = Late Fall Through Winter: The is the dry season of hibernation & reflection. You may notice that you are sleeping more heavily and that you feel more scattered and less social. Keep drinking water & herbal teas all day and increase the oil in your diet, and apply natural oils to hands & feet to help your body retain its moisture (and can be helpful to massage your feet and legs with oil before you shower). You may want to put a little sesame oil on a Q-tip and massage your ear canal to keep it moist. Keep a little bit of oil in an eye dropper and put a drop or two into each nasal passage at night. Do not become dehydrated, as this will make you more lethargic & affect your mood and thinking.
- Sleep: You naturally sleep harder & longer during this season, so it is especially important to get to bed on time and leave enough time for sleep before the alarm goes off. Since there is so much darkness, make time at least twice a day to get outside and walk, and work next to a window if you can. You need as much natural light as you can in order to feel sleepy at night and keep seasonal sadness at bay.
- Exercise: You may not feel as motivated, so prioritize gentle movements & stretching (like yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi etc that encourages flexibility).
- Diet: This time of year is more difficult to lose weight, as you may be hungrier & tempted to overeat. Use the ginger drink about to help avoid cravings & overeating, and be diligent to avoid flour-based foods & sweets. Minimize alcohol consumption, as this only worsens winter blues. When the days are shortest, eat your final meal before dark. Avoid cold foods (yogurt, cold cereal, raw veggies) and foods that dry out your system (like dry snack foods, popcorn, crackers). Eat warming foods, especially at breakfast. = root vegetables (squashes & root vegetables, & soups and stews as your mainstay during this season as they are warm & filling), all meats (this is time to eat meat as it decreases hunger, but be sure to eat plenty of vegetables with it), no dairy (reduce or eliminate dairy during dry months because they can make seasonal colds worse), soaked dry fruits (few seasonal fruits, avoid frozen fruits/frozen smoothies, and can have apples especially if cooked), plenty of healthy oils (keep skin & joints lubricated), warming spices (can have more salt at this time and pepper, and all other spices & hot spices).
Vata Balancing Tea (end of October through early February): A warming hydrating tea to help you stay grounded during the cold, dry season, and help regulate appetite and promote healthy bowel function… 4 cups water, 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, 2 cardamom pods, 1 tablespoon natural sweetener (optional)… In a medium saucepan, boil the water. Crush the seeds & pods slightly and add to the boiling water. Boil for 3 minutes before adding the sweetener, then boil for 2 more minutes, Strain & serve hot.
Detoxing Between Seasons: Ayurveda recommends a cleanse between each season to help the body release the energy of the old season and to welcome the new season. Do this when days are shortest, the longest, & the equinoxes = approximately December 21st, March, June & December. This is a time to stay home & take care of yourself, and have ready access to a bathroom for the 1st few hours…
- After your first of the AM exercise, take 1-2 tablespoons of castor oil (a simple laxative, & can mix with a little grapefruit juice if you need). Do not eat anything else until noon, and after about 30 minutes the castor oil will do its work of clearing out your colon, releasing the accumulated toxins of the previous season and undigested food in your system. For the rest of the day stick to a liquid diet of clear soups, broth, and herbal teas (if you must eat in early evening, then keep it small & have a piece of fruit or steamed vegetables). You want to give your digestive system a rest so it can begin working with renewed energy the following day.
“If you take time to cleanse your body as the seasons change, you will be less likely to suffer from seasonal colds, and your ability to digest foods will dramatically improve. You should notice an increase in energy in the weeks following this cleanse and a greater ability to make good food choices.”
Snowbirds (a long winter stay in a warm climate): It is best for your health to travel right after the winter solstice and return before the spring equinox.
Because we live our lives largely indoors, it’s tempting to think that the climate doesn’t affect us, but it does. Climate changes everything about how our bodies function, form our moods to our physical health. By paying attention to how your body reacts to the changing seasons, you can adjust your daily schedules to keep yourself healthy & grounded and it will become instinctual!