Why Slowing Down Sometimes Means Going Further

On Fridays, I do a 30-minute HIIT (high-intensity interval training) cycling session on the Peloton. This typically involves short periods of intense exercise alternated with recovery periods. Usually, it leaves me red in the face, exhausted and feeling miserable throughout the morning.

I started to dread my Friday mornings.

Last Friday, I got up tired. I did not want to fatigue myself more as I had an important meeting that could last for a few hours. But I also had to do some exercise.

Instead of the HIIT, I decided to do a low-impact session. This meant I would cycle at a more leisurely pace. I would still have to make an actual effort but it would be at a reduced one.

The 30-minute ride was smooth. I even caught myself smiling in the mirror and I heard Rihanna sing. I did not keep checking the timer to see how many minutes were left. All in all, I felt rather good about myself.

In the end, I sweated well enough. I checked the analytics to find that my heart rate reached the required 120 B.P.M. for my training program. What was even more surprising was when I compared my performance with the HIIT session of last week, It was down by only 18%.

I rechecked it.

Though it felt like 50% less effort, the result was less by 18%

I drove to the office whistling to a tune playing in the background. Going up the stairs to my office, I felt a bounce in my step — something I had not experienced for a while in the mornings. A pleasant feeling flooded my bloodstream. It was not intense, but it had a lingering effect throughout the day, allowing me to focus more and enjoy whatever I did.

For 18% fewer calories burnt, I got rejuvenated and not exhausted. I got to feel good throughout the day and not miserable. I got to be efficient and not sluggish.

Most days, I love exercising with intensity as it sets up my day excellently, leaving me with long-term health benefits. However, we also need to listen to our bodies. There is a certain sweet point for everyone between being ‘too intense’ and exercising at a laidback pace.

I had started to dread the Friday HIIT mornings but now I was looking forward to next Friday’s low-impact ride.

The truth is I am not a professional cyclist who is entering Tour de France anytime soon. Cycling sessions are part of my overall health program. It is okay when I drop off my performance when my body demands it.

We often over-stress and over-work for gains less proportionate to the effort we put in. Usually, when we slow down and are in the right frame of mind, things get done with less effort. As such we do not allow anxiety to stop our progress. Do not underestimate the time and energy we waste when anxious, overwhelmed and simply too harassed to do anything.

Yes, push hard at the right time. However, also dial back at other times. This is because, most times, when we push hard all the time, it means we are less happy. We are also less effective when we are over-stressed.

We also become more self-involved and less kind when our minds and bodies are too fatigued.

Like what Ferris Bueller said in the 1986 cult movie hit, Ferris Bueller’s day off, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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I rise daily at 5 am, meditate, read and journal on my Self-awareness journey. Some of my reflections make it to my blog; others don’t. (http://mo-issa.com)

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