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LESS IS BEST

Is there any such thing as a healthy addiction? It's a bit of an oxymoron if you ask me. But for many, including myself, exercise if pursued with a religious zeal can be like heroin in its effects. You feel high as a kite while doing it, then are sunk in the lows if unable to fit in a workout. You become a slave to your routine, the day revolving around whether or not your break a sweat. Feel me?

I spent the better part of 2 recent years (2013 and 2014) training for and running marathons and other endurance events, including a half-ironman triathlon and an ultra trail run. In this time my daily workout was enough to fulfill the week's quota for someone who follows the guidelines set forth by the American College of Sports Medicine, which recommends:

1. 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, which can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week).

and

2. Resistance exercises, 2 or 3 days a week, involving all major muscle groups, 2 to 4 sets per exercise, 8 to 20 repetitions.

As I said I could easily do a week's worth of training in 1 day. For example I'd go on a long run of 18 to 20 miles and follow this with as many of 20 sets of resistance exercises.

The question is, why so much? Endurance events provided much of the motivation, but even after I stopped signing up for races, working out for 2 or 3 hours a day became my habit. And I will admit that I liked being able to eat as much as I wanted and not worry about gaining any weight. How or why I became so weight-conscious still baffles me. I graduated high school weighing 165 and somewhere in my 30s I decided I wanted to weigh what it said on my first drivers' license, 150 lbs, and thereafter I would become a bit down if I exceeded this rather random weight limit.

And exercising to lose or maintain a certain weight is not uncommon, but is it healthy? I found that a vegan diet can do more to maintain a healthy weight than any amount of training. When I broke my leg last October and had to spend the better part of 3 months in or near bed, I thought my weight would skyrocket, but I actually lost a couple pounds. Sure, the weight loss was likely in the form of muscle, and my body mass distribution tipped in favor of a higher body fat percentage, but when I finally was able to resume working out, and very moderately, I noticed that my body looked the same with a mere fraction of the training I had formerly engaged in. Much closer to the ACSM recommendations.

Incidentally, the ACSM allows for one continuous session OR multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) to accumulate the desired amount of daily exercise.  And this is what I began doing. A few minutes of jump rope here, hop on the stationary bike for a bit there, climb a few stairs, throw in a few sets of bodyweight exercises or maybe some dumbbells, and in the span of as little as 10 minutes, 20 tops, I was done for the day.

Here are pictures of back when I was running 70 miles a week and lifting 4 or 5 days, in addition to riding my bike 2 or 3 days a week; and then when I basically stopped running (because I couldn't) and instead substituted cross-training, with 2 or 3 days of resistance.

running 70 miles a week, plus 4 or 5 days of strength training (10 hours total per week)

light cross-training, 2 days weights (2 hours total per week)
Of course if strenuous exercise gives you pleasure or your fitness goals require hours upon hours of training, then go for it. But if you fear that unless you spend hours every day respiring and perspiring you'll blow up like a balloon, choose a plant-based diet and your weight will remain the same without any effort at all. Appetite naturally decreases as activity diminishes. Me, I gave up eating so many dates. Be moderate and live a healthy life.

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