When it comes to your workout of choice, having balance in your go-to routine is crucial. Cardio is great, but it’s vital to incorporate strength training to see the best results. Yoga’s brilliant, but it’s not going to sculpt your body alone.
“By incorporating varied training techniques, the body is constantly switching up muscular engagement and neutral pathways, which not only builds strength and fitness levels, but also makes for more intelligent exercise patterns,” says personal trainer Rosie Hope.
For Hope, mixing it up is vital to getting the most out of her workouts.
“Without the deep core strength I’ve gained from Pilates, I’d be unable to lift heavy weights with the correct form and technique, leaving me vulnerable to injury,” she adds.
While hitting the cardio is great for upping your fitness, bringing calming practices into your routine could be a better way to go. Consistently putting our bodies under stress – as a HIIT class does, for example – provokes our fight or flight response.
“We have an instinctual fight or flight response when faced with a ‘threat,’ which skyrockets our cortisol (the stress hormone) levels through the body to react quickly and get out of the way of danger,” Rosie explains. “Our body processes it in the same way it would any other physical or emotional stress.”
And too much of this hormone isn’t good news for your gains: a 2000 Yale study linked higher levels of cortisol to excess abdominal fat in women who weren’t overweight.
There’s also potential that a lack of chill time could have a negative impact on your eating habits. “An increase in the production of cortisol means the cells of the body can become resistant to insulin, causing inflammation and making it more difficult for the body to burn fat,” Hope says.
Gentle exercises mean that you get a mindful boost. “These exercises are designed to help you connect to your body and gain a deeper understanding of how, and why, you move in particular patterns,” Rosie explains.
“[As well as] helping you to find more length and flexibility, they offer an opportunity to find more presence in a workout, lower your your cortisol levels and help to bring the body back to a place of homeostasis.”
Mix these ideas into your weekly regime and reap the mental and physical benefits.
LISS (that’s Low Intensity Steady State) training is exercising at a slow, consistent pace for a prolonged period – it could be pace-y walking, or a long bike ride in which you peddle at a chilled rate.
“When you do this, not only are you boosting your cardiovascular health and hitting the fat-burning heart rate zone, but by taking some time to be outside you are creating some headspace and cultivating a mindful practice,” Rosie explains. Try swapping your commute to a walk, or heading to your local park for some nature therapy.
This is next-level pilates, where every movement is specifically designed to activate or release a particular muscle. A ‘reformer’ machine is used, which you strap your limbs into, to be rolled and pushed.
“Reformer Pilates is a fantastic element to add to your training regime, as the use of straps and springs allows your body to be hugely supported to find more length,” Hope says. “It results in an increase in flexibility and develops a finely-tuned level of true strength in the body.”
“Staying in one yoga pose for anywhere between one and five minutes can seem frightening, especially if flexibility is not your strong suit,” says Hope.
“But, by giving your body – and mind – the time and space to relax and breathe, you allow the muscles to lengthen, tensions to ease away and the mind to enter a deep meditative state.”
By slowly unfurling the body, you can keep tabs on your cortisol levels and reduce stress.