If you can manage it, working out on an empty stomach first thing in the morning burns more fat than at any other time.
Don’t ask me about the exact science behind it, but it’s something to do with insulin levels being at their lowest level and glucagon levels being high – causing the body to use fat for fuel.
On top of that, for a double whammy, exercising first thing in the morning will get your metabolism revved up and into high gear for the rest of the day.
Personally I find that I feel light headed if I exercise without eating – and keeling over is not a good idea. I drink a cup of mint tea and eat a big juicy orange and that seems to be enough to tide me over but maybe that defeats the purpose – and I just use the calories from the orange 🙂
But if it’s right for your body chemistry then why not give it a go and get out from under the duvet and straight into your fitness gear?
Should you exercise when you don’t feel well?
There’s a general rule of thumb for minor illness which says that if you are sick from the neck up it’s ok to exercise but if you’re sick from the neck down you should take the day off and rest.
By sick from the neck up it means if you have just a head cold, a slight headache or are feeling a bit stuffed up then it should be ok to work out. Sick from the neck down means you are sick all over – you are feeling shivery flu like symptoms and you really should take to your bed, rest and stay hydrated while you recover.
Like all general rules of thumb you have to be sensible about self-diagnosing anything more than a minor cold and talk to your doctor if necessary about any illness you have. And of course, injury is a different matter entirely.
If you do exercise when you are unwell you will probably find your heart rate elevated from it’s usual level and you will reach your maximum heart rate at a gentler pace. So take care not to overdo it because you don’t want to challenge your system when it is already coping with you being under the weather. Use a heart rate monitor if possible and check your heart rate frequently while you work out.
If you just have a head cold you will probably find that you will feel much better after your workout – as well as feeling buoyed up by getting out there and just doing it despite not feeling 100%.
Interval training is the way to go if you can only manage a 20 minute exercise session but you want all the fitness benefits of a much longer session.
Why is that?
In a long session your body will make the most effort at the start of the session while it gets used to the level of exertion you are asking of it.
If that intensity doesn’t change throughout the session, your heart reaches a “steady state” after a short time and it does not have to make as much effort/expend as much energy to maintain your pace.
You are then coasting along for the remainder of the session – making an effort, of course but not really pushing yourself or using as much energy as you could.
With interval training you work at a higher intensity in intervals with a more moderate recovery pace between bursts. The bursts of higher intensity exercise can last from as little as 30 seconds to as much as a few minutes with the moderate intensity periods being just enough to recover from your high level exertion – usually about one and a half to twice as long. So you might jog for 2 minutes and then run at top speed for a minute and then recover by jogging for two minutes before picking up the pace again.
With this pattern your heart does not reach a steady state – every time you have a burst of higher intensity exercise your heart rate is elevated again and as a result you use more energy to keep your body moving throughout the session, not just during the higher intensity bursts.
If you follow this pattern for 20 minutes you will find that you use as many calories as you would in a much longer session and you will become fitter faster. As well as training your heart, intervals help build new capillaries within your cardiovascular system giving a boost to your endurance. All those new blood vessels mean that you will be better able to take in oxygen as well as deal with the waste products of exercise such as the lactic acid which causes burning and sore muscles.
Whatever is happening in the world you know that within the next 3 months you could be as fit as Madonna if you put your mind to it, don’t you? And you can feel like a million dollars, credit crunch or no credit crunch.
All things being equal it’s better to be awash with cash than poor as a church mouse, of course. But the wealthy are often trapped in unhealthy bodies whereas you can feel on top of the world for no money at all. See 27 ways to get fit for free if you’re short on ideas on how to get fit when money is tight.
You certainly don’t need a personal trainer (but don’t let me stop you if you can afford one!) and you don’t need a gym (especially one you keep promising yourself you’ll go to but never do). The most important thing you need is motivation to just get out there and do it. And that costs nothing at all.
Being super fit is just one way of staying in control in a world which seems to have been a bit uncontrollable lately. Fitness is something you can do for yourself no matter what happens “out there”!
Actually I’m not sure we had a summer this year in the U.K. but anyway – it’s definitely becoming colder, windier and wetter so winter must be coming soon.
Many of us give up exercising outdoors in winter (and I must confess that I take to the great indoors for exercise most days come November). But if you can bear to live with the initial chill of getting out your front door you will reap the many benefits of winter exercise.
And the best one?
You will burn more calories than in the summer!
The thing is you will stay cooler so that you can work flat out without getting overheated. This means your workout will feel like less effort and you will work harder. Plus keeping warm itself burns calories – so a workout which feels like less effort (because you stay cool) will actually burn more calories than in the summer.
For the best effect, wear layers which you can take off as you warm up and start with just enough clothing so that when you go outside you feel cool but not so cold you’re shivering while you do your warm up.
If getting out there is a major deal in cold or wet weather, time management coach Mark Forster has a great trick for that. He motivates himself by setting a goal just to Get Outside