Folks, we are tired. This is probably not a (yawn!) news flash to most of us. The average American gets less sleep than 20 years ago, and one-third of us report sleeping less than seven hours a night. And this does not include moms with young kids, for whom anything approaching seven hours sounds like nirvana. Add increasing levels of stress to chronic sleep deprivation, and you get a national fatigue nightmare. No wonder that some 15% of women and 10% of men confessed to being “very tired or exhausted” most days of the week, according to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control a few years ago.
While there are numerous valid medical reasons for fatigue and exhaustion (thyroid issues, clinical depression, poor nutrition, heart conditions, medicine side effects, to name just a few), many of us otherwise healthy Americans still feel like we’re running on fumes. So we reach for dark chocolate and caffeine (dropping $2.24 billion on cans of Red Bull in 2016 alone), trying to prime the pump. Instead, what we really need is a tune up.
The fundamentals behind Elev8d Fitness are indeed fundamental: Humans are built to move; movement requires firing and engaging muscles, which in turn requires energy. It’s biomechanics meets physics. But so often our approach to exercise and energy is focused on one thing: burning calories and expending energy. The more, the better, right? Work out longer and harder and get better results, yes? Well, not exactly. Sometimes you just get left behind. I’ve learned the hard way – on a 40-mile bike ride when my quads were spent and I “bonked” (as we say in cycling), which meant I couldn’t keep up with the group and faced a long, lonely, painful trek home. I was far from energized after that ride, and humiliated to boot.
Remember the first law of physics? It’s the law of conservation, and it holds that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; rather, it can only be transformed from one form to another. When you exercise, you are never just burning calories and energy; you are also creating it. The trick is to create the right kind – to exercise your muscles and body in a way that doesn’t leave you zapped and listless, but leaves you pumped, and well, elevated.
So how does Elev8d do this? By focusing workouts on balanced muscle engagement and postural alignment, which utilizes the larger, deeper muscles, not just the smaller, surface ones.
Endurance athletes such as long distance runners and cyclists tend to overuse one or two muscle groups, and are typically lean and frequently exhausted. Studies have shown that sustained effort over long periods of time can raise cortisol (stress hormone) to unhealthy levels (all exercise induces a stress-response, pumping up cortisol which then goes back down), and when cortisol gets out of whack, fatigue can result. But shorter, higher intensity intervals, such as those we do at Elev8d, combined with strength training and engaging the deeper core muscles can keep cortisol in check.
But even more, when we fire up our deeper, larger muscles such as those “core” muscles that stabilize the body and improve posture and alignment, our bodies burn more energy in a shorter amount of time, and bring more oxygen—the fuel for our muscles—into those bigger muscles. The upshot (and we’re not talking shots of Red Bull) is that you actually burn energy more efficiently and feel more energetic throughout the day. Working these larger muscle groups in a systematic, intentional way doesn’t deplete your energy stores as much as recharge and replenish them. “It’s not magic or gimmickry that makes you feel so fantastic throughout the day. It’s basic science,” affirms Elev8d’s exercise physiology guru Erik Simon.
So think big and smart when it comes to exercise. There is a place for building endurance and many athletes, myself included, enjoy the mental and physical benefits of a long bike ride or run, but to harness the laws of physics most efficiently and stay more energized, engage those deep, larger muscles in shorter, more focused exercises. The goal should be to get more out of your day and your life, not just your workout.