Not all of us enjoy exercise, in fact I don’t think it’s a stretch to say a lot of us find exercise = pure misery! So why are you feeling so damn awful during your workout?
It might be one of these reasons…
If you feel tired, lethargic, or nauseated after exercise dehydration may be the culprit. Due to water loss during exercise through sweat as well as in your breath, you can become dehydrated if you are exercising for an hour or more, or even less time than this if the workout is particularly intense, your environment is very hot, or you naturally sweat a lot.
Counteract this by making sure you drink plenty of water in the hours before you exercise as well as topping up with water during exercise. If you aren’t sure if you are dehydrated or not the easiest method to check is to see what colour your urine is- clear or pale straw coloured urine means you are well hydrated, dark urine means you need a fluid top up!
The wrong pre-exercise snack
Consuming a snack before exercise that is either too high in sugar or fat can can queasiness and lethargy, while skipping a snack or eating one too low in calories or carbohydrate can cause a blood sugar drop with symptoms such as shakiness, fatigue, nausea, weakness, or dizziness.
Either plan your exercise session to be timed about an hour or two after a meal, or if it’s been a few hours since you ate it’s a good idea to choose a snack with both carbohydrate and protein and which is light enough that it is easily digested and won’t sit like a heavy lump in your stomach at a time when you are trying to exert yourself to the max!
Something like low fat cheddar cheese on wholegrain crackers, cereal and milk, a wholemeal sandwich with tuna or egg, low fat fruit muffin, or cottage cheese on an english muffin are great pre or post exercise snacks.
You aren’t used to exercise
If your body just isn’t used to moving, all the chemical pathways that are associated with taking energy in the form of carbohydrate, protein, or fat and turning this into movement are just not as efficient as they could be. All of this requires oxygen, which you get through breathing. Hence the need to huff and puff!
In fact, as compared to muscular soreness or pain (in otherwise healthy individuals), being short of breath is usually the thing that limits you the most when starting to exercise. Or of course, getting a stitch- that sharp pain in your side when you’ve overexerted yourself.
If your fitness level means it’s just not physically possible for you to get out there and run a marathon, instead start by just moving any way that works for you, and then taking gradual steps to improve your fitness from your baseline level.
If you can manage a ten minute walk, each week try to add 2 mins onto this. Another option is to add in short thirty second “sprints” where you exercise a little more intensely for a short spurt, and then drop back to your usual pace while you get your breath back. You might do one of these sprints every 2 minutes to start off, and work towards thirty seconds on thirty seconds off.
There is actually too much of a good thing when it comes to exercise. When you exercise tiny little micro tears happen to your muscles, which need to be repaired. Your body recognises the strain being put on your system, and so your muscles will not just repair these tears so your muscles are back to the same level they were before your exercise session, but will actually go beyond this!
Each session will result in small improvements being made to muscular strength, size, agility, and muscle memory. Which is what we want! The problem is that when we put too much strain on muscles- either through long or very intense exercise sessions, or by not giving muscles long enough to recover and really repair and improve, we can actually go backwards.
Joint pain, muscular pain, fatigue, constantly getting sick, or staying sick for long periods when you do get sick, as well as low mood and motivation can result. The solution? Try to aim for a 48 hour break between resistance exercise sessions, or if you do train daily focus on upper body one day and lower body the next day. Cardio can be done daily but keep sessions to a level that works for you.
Structuring your exercise progression so that three weeks in a row you increase time/weights/intensity, then on the fourth week you drop back to the levels of the week before (week 2), before starting this cycle again means even though you are still exercising your body perceives this as a “rest” week of sorts.