What if I told you that you could lose weight by eating more, sleeping more and exercising less? Would you believe me? Or does that sound too good to be true?
I get it. It can be hard to comprehend—even for me!—the fact that I’m in the best shape of my life while working out LESS than ever before.
So, first I’ll explain the science behind how this is the case, and then I’ll share with you what a typical week looks like for me. If you’re not a sciencey-person or don’t care to understand the whys, then feel free to scroll down to the exercise part.
Oh, and I also created a free guide for you with my specific nutrient and supplement recommendations for workouts. Click here to get the free guide (you can save, download, and print it!)
The Science Behind Why exercising LESS helped me get into the best shape of my life
The reality is: I don’t have a super structured, rigid exercise program. In fact, I have quite the opposite!
And, the more I was thinking about my LACK OF workout regimen, the more I thought perhaps that’s exactly why I need to write this post. Maybe it’s time to share this truth with you—this liberating, freeing, no-need-to-clock-in-hours-at-the-gym-to-get-your-best-bod truth. And to give you an insider’s look into what my “non-specific” exercise routine really looks like. 🙂
I am so laid back about exercise now because I understand the science behind metabolism, energy levels, and weight loss. I now know the less I stress, and the more I rest, the BETTER my body responds.
I know too many people who follow restrictive diets, depriving their body of what it needs, all while putting it through hell at the gym...and they aren’t shedding a single pound. I can relate. I used to do this, too. The thing is weight loss doesn’t work like that anyway!
When I was exercising intensely in an attempt to LOSE weight, I was actually GAINING weight! That’s because the exercise was causing inflammation—something we don’t hear about very often from weight loss experts or the media. Too much exercise can cause inflammation in your body. If you exercise too hard on a daily basis, there is an abundance of inflammation happening that your body isn’t getting a break from. This would explain not only your inability to lose weight—as your body is constantly fighting the inflammation inside of you—but it’s also why you can actually gain weight from exercising too much—because of all the compounding inflammation.
And that’s exactly what was happening with me. I was working out daily, and watching as the pounds packed on my body. I was beyond perplexed. You could see it in my face, too—especially my cheeks. But I didn’t understand why.
Here’s what happens...
Essentially, inflammation drains your metabolism because your body is focused on healing the damaging inflammation. It can also increase your body’s production of cortisol—your stress hormone. This sets you up for weight gain because it raises blood sugar levels and triggers the release of insulin, which is your fat-storing hormone. (That’s also why it’s super important to prioritize rejuvenating workouts like yoga or pilates. These help you reduce your stress levels and make you a more balanced human being, all of which help you lose weight.
You might be where I once was. I thought is was smart to skip those kinds of workouts. I thought it was more important to burn the most calories, so that’s where I put all my energy. The reality is that even though I was torching calories left and right, I was gaining weight! Yoga has actually helped lean out my body and reduce my stress by helping to reduce inflammation. Besides, mentally stressing about getting to the gym can cause you to pack on the pounds, too!
5 Core Exercise Principles
So, while I don’t have any “exercise rules” per se, I do have a few guidelines that I instinctively follow that I attribute my physical fitness successes to.
I’ll outline them by showing you what I used to do, and what I do now…and how my mindset on exercise and priorities have changed. The differences are MONUMENTAL. My entire outlook on exercise is different, and as a result, so is my body!!!
Of course, nutrition and supplements are important, too, and for all of those details I created a free guide for you with my specific nutrient and supplement recommendations for workouts. Click here to get the free guide (you can save, download, and print it!)
1. First and foremost, I always listen to my body…a LOT.
WHAT I USED TO DO: Exercise every day no matter what. Workouts took priority above all else. I would fit them in regardless of how busy, sleep-deprived or stressed I was. I dictated them based on what I thought I “should” be doing. And how many calories I had to burn—er...thought I had to burn—in order to maintain or lose weight. That calorie restricting method backfired.
WHAT I DO NOW: I listen to my body first—no matter what. Even if I plan my schedule around a certain workout or sign up for a certain class, I always change my course of action depending on how my body feels and what it is telling me it needs. This used to be a foreign concept for me. I am in control of my body, I’d say. And I’d exert my control by feeding it a certain amount of calories and forcing it to do more work and burn off more than I was taking in, as if it were a machine. But that never worked for me. Now, I pay attention to its signals (Am I sore? Tight? Stiff? Needing some TLC, or itching for a workout?), and this is what determines my course of activity for the day.
If I’m super sore from yesterday’s workout, but have been sitting at my desk all day, what it may need is a brisk walk or a yoga class. If I’m super sore and feeling burned out, I may need to skip all activity and take a warm bath and go to bed earlier. If I’m craving movement and my body feels awesome, I may go and crush a tough Crossfit workout.
And, while I do my best to listen to it and give it that, I’m not always right. But, I’m learning and getting better over time! Listening to your body is a learning process, and like all things around here, it’s not at all about perfection. But it is about progress and gradually shifting your mindset over time…a process I call “unbrainwashing.” Just as we were brainwashed for so many years to believe that eating fat is the enemy, we’ve been brainwashed about exercise, too.
2. Sleep is My New Exercise (in a way)
WHAT I USED TO DO: I used to jolt out of bed to the sound of the 4:30am alarm so that I could be at the gym when it opened (typically a few minutes before, so as not to waste a calorie that could be burned!). I’d clock in my 60 minutes on the elliptical, all BEFORE instructing the 6am bootcamp. The funny thing was that all of that never yielded the results in my waistline and body that I was wanting. Talk about a lose-lose situation! I’ve learned the hard way the toll sleep deprivation takes. My moods would swing, my energy levels were shot, and the numbers on the scale kept going up. Getting more sleep helped me shed pounds and get fitter.
WHAT I DO NOW: Sleep comes before exercise. Period! I will not steal from my much-needed sleep in order to squeeze in a workout. If it’s one or the other, sleep wins every time. Hands down.
3. The difference between an active lifestyle and working out.
WHAT I USED TO DO: I used to feel the need (compulsion) to clock in a structured workout EVERY day of the week—no exceptions. I’d lose sleep over it, I’d sacrifice events with friends and family for it. My life was structured around my workout schedule. My exercise RULED my life.
WHAT I DO NOW: Now I finally understand the difference between an active lifestyle and working out. The difference to me is two-fold: First, while I value being active and moving my body, it doesn’t mean punching the time clock at the gym. It CAN include hitting the gym (and I’m a huge fan of group classes. They’re part of my weekly routine, as you’ll see in the next section of this post!), but my main goal is activity—simply moving my body—not structured exercises at a gym. This can mean a class at a fitness center, going for a walk with a friend, biking around the lakes, or paddle boarding on a sunny day. The second difference in activity is enjoyment, not a militant discipline of punishing myself to skinny. I love the active things I do. Exercise is more fun this way, and certainly more freeing!
4. I exercise when I travel…if it works into my schedule.
WHAT I USED TO DO: Travel always meant MORE stress because I’d have anxiety around when and how I’d be able to fit in a workout. Wake up at the crack of dawn to fit it in. Skip social activities to get in a workout. Miss out on sacred opportunities to explore the city or connected with new people…all to get in a workout.
WHAT I DO NOW: When I travel, I no longer make exercise a priority. Traveling can already be stressful, especially if I’m speaking or in a different country, or meeting an idol of mine. 🙂 And since those are the main reasons I travel, I’ve learned to just focus on the intention behind the trip. That means I don’t stress about if, when, or how I’m going to exercise.
Now, sometimes this can go the other way. If I happen to come across a Crossfit gym, or a yoga studio that is near to where I’m staying and I have time to fit in a class or two, then great! This gets me excited! But notice the overall theme here: feeling excited vs. feeling obligated. Obligation comes with feeling with feeling burdened by “needing” to exercise.
My Weekly Exercise Routine
- Crossfit 2-3x/week.
- Yoga 1-2x/week.
- Non-gym based activity 1-2x/week.
- My metabolism-boosting insider’s hack 2x/week.
When I first tried Crossfit, I got HOOKED. I loved the workouts (short and sweet) and I loved the coaches, my classmates and the community (so accepting, tight and chill)...and I still love all of these things! When I started, I was coming off of basically 2 years without exercising much at all, as I’d been focused on writing my book and growing my team, and I LOVED what I experienced! I started doing Crossfit workouts every single day and I was seeing tons of progress, specifically in the amount of weight I could lift. It was empowering and gave me something new and exciting to aim for!
A few months after starting this regimen, a couple things happened: First, I noticed my body began to change…a lot. And while I really respect and value being able to lift super heavy weights, I also didn’t want my body shape and size to drastically change. Second, I ended up in the hospital with meningitis. To be clear, Crossfit did NOT land me in the hospital (overall stress did). But doing these intense workouts day in and day out added stress on my already stressed out body, and my body was forced to fight compounding inflammation while my immune system became weaker.
So, over the past year, I’ve been working on finding a healthy balance. The wonderful thing is that I’m actually finding myself HOLDING BACK from going to more than 3 Crossfit classes a week. It’s a wonderful feeling to love your workout so much like that! BUT, like I’ve shared throughout this article, I know the importance of listening to my body, giving it necessary rest time, and consciously choosing rejuvenation. That’s why I’m doing more yoga, which has been great for stress management, peace of mind, and my waistline, too. I haven’t even touched how this practice also cuts out “stress eating” which is also a mega benefit.
So most weeks, I hit Crossfit twice, and yoga twice (one day I do back-to-back Crossfit and Yoga, so I’m at the gym three times a week).
I try to do something else active on one of the remaining days: like go for a short run (2-5 miles is my sweet spot these days.) I alsolove to bike, paddle board, rollerblade, and during the weeks I’m in San Diego, I boogie board!
So, with 3 days at the gym, and 1 day doing something else active, that accounts for 4 days. What do I do with the other 3? I might work late. I might go to Happy Hour with a friend. I might cook a really nice dinner. I might relax in the hot tub, at the pool, or on my balcony with a really good book. Are you catching my theme here? Most importantly: I rest.
I’ve found that for me to maintain the body I’ve worked so hard for, the name of the game is balance.
So, that’s what I do! I work out a little, rest a little, and am active a lot! And I make it a priority to sleep enough. Above all, I listen to my body.
Morning Metabolism Boosting Hack
On days when I would love to get in some activity but am very short on time, one of my tricks is to get up a tiny bit earlier than usual (~20 minutes) and I put on my shoes and SPRING to the coffee shop!
Here’s the breakdown:
- 3 minutes to change into my running clothes
- 5 minutes to sprint to the coffee shop (it’s a half mile)
- 3-6 minutes to get my coffee (which is a wash because it takes me this long to make coffee at home 🙂 )
- 10 minutes to walk home (nice and happy with my cup 'o joe in hand. 🙂 )
I end up doing this short metabolism boosting insider’s hack once or twice a week and I LOVE it! It gets my day started with some activity, revs up my metabolism, and it’s a fun treat to get coffee made for me, too.
Nutrition and Supplements for My Workouts
Now, I know you also asked for what I eat and what supplements I take for my workouts, and since this post is already a novel, I put these into a quick guide for you.
Click here to get the free guide (you can save, download, and print it!)