Are your workouts too intense? Pros and cons of intense exercise

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Does excessive exercise exist?

For most people, the response is a big NO. In developed countries, we eat too much, sit too much, and center our life around sedentary activities. Framed this way, excessive exercise does not exist. Most of us benefit from more walking, more running, more biking, and more weight-lifting, any time of the day.

What happens if we don’t listen to our body and try to push our limits? Let’s go through recent studies to see the consequences.

First, intense exercise is usually defined by prolonged exercise at more than 85% of our maximum heart rate. For example, a 35 year old male would typically have a maximum of 185 beats per minute (bpm). 30mn of running, boxing or biking at more than 157bpm is a session of intense exercise. A common formula to get your maximum heart rate is 220 – your age. This is also equivalent to zone 4.5 to zone 5 on a watch with a heart rate monitor. This can give you a rough estimation if you usually do moderate or intense exercise.

Past the definition of intense exercise, results differ greatly, depending on what you are looking at.

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Tips For Running In the Cold

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One of my goals was to run outdoors this winter and so far, it’s a success. I run 3 times a week with temperatures between -10C and 5C (-14F to +23F for our American friends). This can go to -15C or lower with the wind factor.

Why Run? If you missed it, read why you should consider running regularly.

It’s not crazy as it sounds! Yes winter in Canada is cold, dark, and dirty. But running outdoors is less depressive than being confined in a living room or exercising in a crammed gym. Here are my top tips to make winter running suck less:

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Saying No To Passive Entertainment

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How do you make everything happen? There’s work, money, friends and family, exercise, nutrition, sleep. So much to do, so little time.

My advice would be to drastically cut passive entertainment.

This is when you undertake an activity with little physical and mental activity. This goes from TV, Netflix, Youtube, social media to video games and drugs etc.

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Managing Your Physical Condition with Heart Rate Variability

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In a previous post, resting heart rate was shown to reflect physical and mental condition. A low resting heart rate correlates with good health compared to a high resting heart rate.

It becomes complex when you consider age. Older people have lower resting heart rate. And individuals with the same age, nutrition and overall fitness level can have vastly different heart rates. For instance, my maximum heart rate when running is around 172bpm while a friend has 200bpm, with the same heart rate sensor. It does not mean however that I am more or less fit than others.

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Accepting Imperfection

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One of my training goal is to be able to run 5 km in less than 20 minutes before the end of 2016.

I like a lot the idea of this goal. During the day, I would already imagine my legs powering me forward, the wind flowing, and the constant battle against the watch. I was already eager on sharing my success everywhere.

Recently, it started snowing. Sidewalks become a sliding game, shoes become soggy and fingers are frozen. And what was once beautiful green trails become cold, dark and snow paths like above. Result: I loose half of my speed!

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Tiger Balm To the Rescue !

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Even though healthcare is free in Canada, I haven’t taken any antibiotics or any over the counter medicine in the past ten years. No aspirin, Tylenol, Vicks, Advil. Nada.

It’s not because I reject the healthcare system. If I get bitten by a dog or a snake, I will gladly get my anti rabies or anti venomous shot. If I get pneumonia, I won’t say no to a dose of antibiotics, to the contrary. In fact, if you get sick, I highly recommend you to consult your doctor and follow their prescription.

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Set a Goal before Any Training

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A good goal : Finishing a marathon
How do you ensure you get enough exercise, every week?

I see two ways to achieve this.

First is including exercise in your daily routine. I have already mentioned commuting as exercise. Blue Zones populations take it a step further. Ikarians in Greece and Okinawans do not buy vegetables but care for a garden instead. Sardinians are sheepherders, waking up early to cater for their animals and walk great distances. In these areas, there is also no concept of retirement, so elders still continue to have their healthy dose of exercise.

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The Free Radical Theory of Aging

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The picture above shows iron rust. Oxygen reacts with steel, in a process called oxidation. It gives a grey and red color, and soon, steel disintegrate. The process can be accelerated with air or water moisture.

Oxidation can also been seen in food, turning rancid cooking oils or transforming nice apples into sad brown food. This process of oxidation creates free radicals.

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Cancer : Working Against the “Bad Luck”

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In my personal opinion, cancer is the worst type of disease.

I remember a friend who was diagnosed cancer. She was your typical urban geek : front-end programmer at a popular tech startup, lover of yoga, non-smoker, vegan and commuting by bike to work.

She is the kind of hip person you see around the latest bio-vegan-gluten-free coffee shop. You think they’d keep forever their slim waists and healthy composure.

Yet the worst came.

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