How Much Is Too Much?

Since starting Cowgirls With Curves, I’ve had an increase in followers on Twitter. Interestingly enough, most of them are fitness fanatics. Most of them post about the fastest way to get ripped, or the latest greatest diet supplement. Needless to say, people in my demographic are their biggest clients and I’m sure that’s what they’re counting on!

How much time at the gym did he spend to look like this???

How much time at the gym did he spend to look like this???

One of the things I’ve noticed is how much time they spend in the gym. It’s never 15-20 minutes. It’s at least an hour, often more, 5-6 days a week. They dedicate their whole life to looking good, eating healthy and working out. That’s fine if that’s what you love.

The problem is that we tend to hold those folks up as a standard, and all too often we’re made to feel guilty if we don’t put that same hour in at the gym. Think about it. How many articles have you read that have said if you’re not spending a minimum of thirty minutes a day working out you’re wasting your time?

No one dies saying they wished they’d worked more. I have a sneaking suspicion that no one dies saying they wished they’re worked out more either. On a side note, I can imagine them saying they wished they’d ridden a few more horses!

This looks like a fun way to stay active!

This looks like a fun way to stay active!

I work in the healthcare industry and I’m surrounded by “healthy” people who live in the suburbs and fill their lives with yoga, gyms and kid’s soccer games. More than once I’ve gotten little looks when I say I’m taking the elevator because I get enough walking in every morning.

But seriously, we have nine horses and I spend a full hour every morning cleaning stalls, dumping feed, and bringing horses in – seven days week. I’m going non-stop. While they are just getting up casually drinking their coffee from their Keurig and worrying about what are going to wear for the day, I’m already out dumping a load of manure!

Then when they come home and worry about cooking dinner or what soccer game to go to next, I’m saddling a horse to ride or giving a riding lesson right up until time to go to bed because it’s the only time I have to get my riding in. My morning starts at 4am most of the time.

Naturally, when I go to work, the last thing I want to do is walk up the stairs! I also don’t want to get up an hour earlier just to get a workout in. I used to, but not any more.

While I do think it’s important to build strength, especially as riders, I think it’s also important to keep a happy balance. I think you also have to consider what are you getting in return for what it’s costing you. Is it worth it?

If that hour at the gym is really a sanity break for you, then yes it’s absolutely worth it. My guess is that’s a healthy habit that will stand a good chance of lasting a long time and that’s great!

On the flip side, if you’re stressed just making it to the gym because you’re so cramped on time, or you’re working out instead of getting a recommended amount of sleep, or it’s taking you away from important activities then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what you’re doing. That hour may be causing more harm than good in some ways. If you’re overwhelmed by getting in that hour or even thirty minutes a day of exercise, then maybe it’s time to try something different.

Spending 10-15 minutes a day on core exercises or kettlebells really can offer some benefits, and you’ll see a definite improvement in your riding. That 10-15 minutes doesn’t even have to be all at one time – it can be broken up into different quick sessions throughout the day.

A few weeks back, I ran across this article on PopSugar. It talks about how instead of exercising in the traditional sense, you can find other ways to get active and healthy. If you’re like me and already getting that hour of barn chores in every morning you’re already half way there!

If you’re spending that hour in the gym every day, do it because you look forward to it, not because you feel you have to.

How many of you have felt stressed getting your exercise routine in every day? How did you deal with that stress and did you make any changes?

One of our afternoon rides. THIS is what's important.

One of our afternoon rides. THIS is what’s important.

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Find YOUR Journey

I always try to give a shoutout to those folks that I believe have something special. Zakk Tompkins, owner of On The Edge rodeo apparel is one of those folks. I recently interviewed Zakk for my author blog, Talking In The Barn, and I was quite surprised at how open he was about his struggle with depression. I really believe this young man has a big purpose in life to help others and be a voice that’s not often heard but is all to real. If you get a chance, please check out the interview and his blog, Be Remembered Be Bold.

Cowgirls are known for blazing their own trail but sometimes when it comes to our daily lives we have a tendency to think we should follow the crowd, or listen to the conventional wisdom at the time. If you don’t believe that, just visit a barrel racing forum the first three months of the year – there’s a least two posts a week asking what the best diet or diet supplement is, or what the best exercise is to lose weight. Most of the times, those posts receive more responses than the actual horse posts that the sites are designed for in the first place – that says volumes about our head space!

We’re told by physicians, fitness gurus, and supplement companies what we should be eating and how we should be working out. Yet at the same time it’s interesting that they all often contradict each other, and even more interesting is the fact that recommendations are constantly changing. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the drugs that were originally touted to be harmless and then later have a warning label of horrible side effects.

A few years back, like the majority of women in their 30-40’s, I was on a common low-grade anti-depressant for a few years. I wasn’t sleeping well, I was tired, and basically had some depression. I work in the health care field but am holistic thinking by nature. I wasn’t too keen on taking medication but I had to do something and there were no alternatives. The doctors just said I needed to exercise more  – I was already getting an hour’s worth of barn chores in the morning.

One New Year I started off with a bang to get in shape. I joined the gym and went on a diet that included veggies, lean protein, and low-fat dairy – I ate a lot of greek yogurt.

Not long after I started the diet, I developed bronchitis along with a sinus infection. Even with antibiotics and enough Mucinex to kill a horse, I just could not get any better. I was sick for at least two months.

I knew dairy could cause thicker mucous and sinus issues. I also knew that most physicians will tell you that’s hogwash but since everything else had failed to work, I decided to try eliminating dairy. A week later, I was already feeling much better and the bronchitis was gone.

That’s when I first decided to cut back on dairy, against conventional medical wisdom as it supplies calcium and vitamin D. Since making that change, I’ve not had the sinus problems that I’ve had before. Any time I do have sinus trouble, it’s always after I’ve gone on a cheese and ice cream binge!

Around this period of time, I developed a bump and then a sore on my face that wouldn’t go away for over a year. A biopsy and blood work showed inflammation but that was it – the doctor was stumped. After doing some research, I asked my physician about Lupus. Based on the biopsy, blood work, and some joint pain that I was having he said that was a possibility and sent me to a rheumatoid specialist who promptly offered medication as the only solution. The medication made me feel like I had the flu, not to mention it had some horrendous long-term side effects.

Not having any alternatives to the medication, I started doing my own research. One of the things that I found was that the anti-depressant I was on could cause inflammation and auto-immune type symptoms. I also learned that certain foods like gluten and dairy could do the same. Armed with that information, I started on a journey of experimentation to see how my body would react.

Long story short, after going off all the medication, and cutting way back on gluten and dairy, the place on my face went away. By experimentation and paying close attention to how my body reacts to food, I learned that dairy and gluten both affect my breathing, cause joint pain, and causes my skin to develop inflamed bumps.

Did you know tomatoes can cause heart burn & cause Rosacea to flare up?

Did you know tomatoes can cause heart burn & cause Rosacea to flare up?

The ironic thing is that foods that the health industry tell you to eat (whole wheat, non-fat dairy) make me sick. The other irony is that conventional medicine had missed that fact.

I tell you this long story to say this —  don’t be afraid to find your own journey when it comes to food and exercise.

In finding your journey when it comes to nutrition and exercise, there’s a few things to consider.

  • How does you body react to certain foods? Start paying attention to even the very small changes that you see in your body and your thinking when you eat certain foods. Sometimes the changes are extremely small and aren’t noticeable until you start keeping track.
  • What nutrition packed foods do you truly love that also makes you feel better? If you can’t enjoy the food you’re eating, you’re not going to be able to keep up that way of eating for long. Face it – we love to eat! Find foods that bring you joy that are also packed with nutrition. For instance, I absolutely love mushrooms and red bell peppers. Instead of always eating bland salads that I don’t enjoy, I’ll brown some mushrooms and peppers in garlic and olive oil… I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!
  • What does the bigger picture look like? Finding happiness in life is all about balance. If you feel like your food or exercise is taking a toll on other important areas of your life then it’s time to re-evaluate. It’s ok to compromise and adjust if you have to – it’s YOUR journey, not someone else’s so don’t compare and don’t feel guilty if you’re not putting a million hours into running on the treadmill!
  • What type of exercise do you enjoy? The more you truly enjoy an activity the more likely you’ll continue doing it. If you don’t enjoy any other form of exercise other than riding, then ride! You can always bump it up and make it more challenging by riding bareback, cantering for longer periods of time, or staying in two point. At least do something and make sure it’s something you enjoy.

fitnessjog

I spent a lot of years listening to the “experts” and it got me nowhere. Just because the medical and fitness experts say you should eat a certain food, take a certain supplement. or work out a certain way doesn’t mean that it will work for YOU. We are all different and you can’t compare. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. In the end, this is your life and your journey and you only get to take one ride!