Know When to "Slow!"
Why slowing down some healthy habits makes them way more effective...
Let's play that word game. I say, “Fitness.” What comes to mind first? Did you say “speed,” high energy,” or “no pain, no gain?” Most of us think faster is better when it comes to getting fit and healthy. And yes, at times, it IS (though I always emphasize the fact that fitness should not entail pain). But a lot of the time, we shortchange ourselves by failing to SLOW DOWN some aspects of our fitness routine. Here are a few "slower" habits that, as a trainer, I regularly urge clients to adopt.
Slow down when eating.
This one change can change your weight and your health. In a 2018 study of Japanese adults with type 2 diabetes, those who gobbled meals quickly were 29% more likely to be overweight than those who ate at a slower pace. Also, fast eaters were 42% more likely to exceed weight norms than those who took an especially long time to eat. Downing meals more slowly means you’re more likely to notice when you’re actually full—and you’ll probably enjoy the food a whole lot more, too.
Slow down your strength training.
Although there are times when strength training can incorporate speed and power (think kettlebell training), in general, most people are completing repetitions too quickly. The faster you lift a weight, the more momentum will take over, lessening the actual work your muscles are doing. Since muscles respond to overload, make them do the work by slowing your pace. Try counting 2-4 seconds up and 2-4 seconds down.
Slow down your stretches.
Stretching is another essential element of any fitness routine that we often rush, or worse, skip! Though it may feel like an eternity after a strenuous workout, we should hold stretches for 15-30 seconds each (and even better, do so 2-3 times for each muscle worked). This allows time for the muscles to truly relax and extend. This post-workout investment means lower injury rate, improved flexibility, and just better quality of life.
Slow down the “recovery phase” of HIIT workouts.
For years now, high intensity interval training (HIIT) has been a popular way to tackle cardio in a challenging way that can improve cardio capacity, torch calories, and dispel boredom. But ironically most people cheat themselves by keeping the “low” intervals too “high.” To maximize HIIT, truly slow down, allowing heart rate to recover, so you can hit peak power during work intervals.
Slow down thoughts & breathing.
Many of us think many of the same, repetitive, negative thoughts day after day. This type of rumination can often also be connected with depression. Catching yourself in negative thought loops allows you to stop the cycle and improve the day, even if you have to do it again & again. Also, breathing in deeply and releasing a nice, long out breath, even once, sets off a relaxation response in the body. Doing this periodically can be a super basic tool for handling bouts of stress. Practices like yoga, tai chi and meditation are excellent ways to formally slow our brains and bodies.
Finally, slow down before bedtime.
Sleep experts recommend a relaxing, pre-bedtime routine as a way to better ease into slumber. Taking a warm bath, reading, stretching, putting away work, and avoiding exercise too close to bedtime are all solid ways of slowing down. Not only will you fall asleep more readily, but your night will likely be more restful as well.