F45 Challenge – Do As I Say, Not As I Do!

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As I’ve written here on a number of occasions, I adore the unique community cultivated at F45 St. Clair West. I’ve tried a couple of other F45 locations, and they just were not for me. I love having the space to move around unique to St. Clair West. The trainers there keep in touch 1 on 1 through Whatsapp and on Instagram. They genuinely care about your well-being and your loyalty to the community.

Some people say there’s a bit of a cult element to F45. Overall, I can see it, but there’s a fine line between the optics of that kind of encouragement and dedication demands. Once you’re involved, it’s just a party of people trying to live their best lives in health. I’ve made some greats friends, reconnected with some old ones, and have learned a lot about myself. In particular? I often go way harder than is necessary, and it’s not always a good idea.

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First and foremost, there’s something to be said for over-training: DON’T DO IT. Do as I say, not as I do, right? Before the F45 Challenge began, I had already been eating fairly well and making it to 3 – 4 F45 classes per week. At lunch, I usually hit up Goodlife with a colleague of mine who continuously chirps me for not having yet raced a 5 km. Add in the fact that I have been walking 4 km to work at least 3 times a week and you’ve got a case for chronically elevated cortisol levels.

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When your cortisol levels are too high, there are a variety of complications which can arise. Weight gain is what has effected me the most, but other symptoms include: high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis, exhaustion – effecting daily hormone cycles and disrupted sleep patterns, memory (ever felt like you were in a mental fog?), and infections due to compromised immune systems.

How to Combat High Cortisol Levels?

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Sleep and Cortisol Levels

This was a tough one for me considering I was living in a basement with totally inconsiderate neighbours and a rich landlord who took the “hands off” approach.  I even moved apartments losing out on over a thousand dollars when I cut my lease short. My F45 Challenge team coach would often reprimand me for not getting 8 hours of sleep. I took that really personally as I was climbing into bed around 8 PM in the hopes that I could get any sleep before getting up to exercise before work. I was killing myself, and that wasn’t enough for him. This was my biggest problem with the F45 Challenge because I was trying so hard and it never seemed to be enough.

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Exercise and Cortisol Levels

Double-edged sword, non? Exercise in moderation can lead to lower cortisol levels. Over-training runs the risk of affecting neurotransmitters such as glutamine, dopamine and 5-HTP. Ever wonder why the road to fit can throw your emotions through a loop? Over-training can lead to feelings of depression and chronic fatigue. Symptoms of hypothyroidism are also a side-effect of over-training, and I think they may have hit me hard throughout the F45 Challenge. Rest and recovery time need to be penciled into your schedule, just like exercise.

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Sugar and Cortisol Levels

Cutting down on your sugar intake should help balance your cortisol levels. I have such a sweet tooth. If I go a couple of days incorporating limited levels of natural sugars (fruit, for example), I find myself craving “real foods” (you know, the ones you get from shopping around the outside of the grocery store) so much more. I went out for a post-challenge celebration with a gal pal recently and we shared a bunch of tapas including: grilled halloumi (cheese), roasted squash, brussel sprouts, and a beet and goat cheese salad. It felt like I had just binged on fast food, but realistically it was all pretty healthy and within moderation for my day. Once you’re off processed sugar, something as simple as a beet tastes like heaven-on-Earth candy. Dwight Shrute may have been on to something…

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Cortisol Conclusions

Last week I went to the Philippines. I spent my days island-hopping, eating food I would neeeeever eat here in Canada (Filipino food is really greasy!), and enjoying cocktails liberally. I felt so puffy and bloated when I arrived home, but lo and behold – hadn’t gained a pound. It’s Friday today, and since Monday I’ve dropped 5 lbs. This is more than I had lost during the F45 Challenge.

I haven’t been stressed about scheduling a particular number of workouts throughout my week. Pizza has been on the menu not once, but twice. I’ve enjoyed a couple of spin classes and have focused on weights at the gym on my lunch break. If your workouts, or goals of a particular challenge, are consuming your entire life – take a step back. Take a night off and head out with your friends. Skip the morning workout and sleep in. It’s clichĂ©, but actually take a minute to stop and smell the roses and breathe in some fresh air. You might find some unlikely (and positive) results!

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ThatGirlCartier

That Girl Cartier is the alter-ego of a Canadian girl in Korea. A candid look at the expat life, That Girl Cartier explores Love, Beauty, Fashion and other finds around the world.

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