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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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…
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 cliché, 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!