If you’ve been following me on Instagram you’ll see I’ve been changing my fitness routine in an aim to find more energy! Since spring has sprung I’m feeling inspired to start something new and hopefully to give myself a new lease of life. Exercise classes are my saving grace during a stressful period and always help get me ready for the day ahead. However, recently I’ve not been feeling the benefits that I used to. All the HIIT workouts, 6am alarms and being in a pool of sweat at the end of each class turns out weren’t actually doing me any good. I’ve been a lover of Psycle since they launched in 2014 and CEO, Rhian Stephenson, reached out to me having seen how I’d been struggling with my energy levels and sleeping via Instagram. It turns out she went through the same thing.

Rhian suggested I try their 8 Week Energy Project which works by pairing their Barre classes with their famed ‘Ride’ classes, alternatively known as spin. After hearing all the benefits that I could soon be feeling I’ve gone ahead and signed myself up for their eight-week course – four barre classes and one Ride class each week. Rhian will also be supporting me on my nutrition to ensure I’m taking care of myself from the inside out.

So, here goes, find out how I’m changing up my fitness routine to find more energy!

I never realised that I should change the way I’m working out based on my hormones, can you tell me a little more about that?

Of course – just as different foods can impact hormone balance and metabolic health, so can different types of exercise.  What may be great for you when you’re well rested can be counterproductive if you’re stressed and overtired. Learning how to adapt your exercise program to suit what is going on hormonally can help you feel better and also get the best results out of your workouts.

I’ve been under huge amount of stress for the last few years, how could this be affecting me?

The adrenal glands secrete cortisol in response to stress – this is a normal reaction and it’s also very useful in certain situations. It’s known as the fight or flight hormone. It is released with both physical and emotional stress in order to ensure the body is ready to go.  Your cortisol fluctuates throughout the day, and this fluctuation is healthy. For example, cortisol should fall before bed, allowing the system to slow down and get ready for sleep. But, if you’re under chronic stress, the adrenal glands stay fired up and release cortisol at a steady pace to keep you going. If this continues, it can impact your health and wellbeing. It can lead to poor sleep or even insomnia, altered immunity, digestive issues, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, a feeling of being ‘tired but wired’, weight gain.

Like so many people with demanding careers, your stress response is in overdrive. This will be contributing to your fatigue, poor sleep, digestive issues and exhaustion. This is another reason why it’s so important to switch the computer and work emails off well before bed. If you’re working until 11pm every evening it will be very challenging for your system to start to slow down and switch off.

Wow. So how does exercise play into this?

Different types of exercise elicit different hormonal responses. Yoga for example is one of the best things to combat stress – it depresses the Sympathetic Nervous System (your ‘fight or flight response’) and activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System (often called the ‘rest and digest response’).  Strength based workouts release more Growth Hormone, and HIIT and high intensity cardio release more cortisol. You’ve been doing the right thing by trying to exercise, but 5 early morning HIIT sessions a week on an already overburdened and little sleep system is too intense.

So what should I be doing?

Right now you should be focusing on lower intensity, predominantly strength based exercise. We’ve put you on barre because it’s fantastic for strength. It’s also lower intensity – your heart rate will stay in the fat burning zone rather than peaking around your max and it’s also amazing for building lean muscle. This will be great for your Growth Hormone, which is essential for repair and regeneration as well as metabolism. It will also help balance your insulin and it still has all of the great mental benefits of other types of exercise.

We’ve kept you with one ride per week, which will give you your endorphins and mood boost, but we’ve moved this to a weekend so you can do it mid-morning after a (hopefully) better sleep rather than first thing.  It would also be great for you to get in some Yin Yoga, which is completely restorative and incredible for sleep.

This is great. And what about my nutrition?

You have a lot of knowledge in this subject and your nutrition is generally good, but you’ve fallen into the habit of snacking on so many sweet things. Stress can really affect digestion and it also makes you crave sugar. So many people end up relying on sugar to get them through the day.  Because digestion is also suppressed from chronic stress, you’re feeling bloated after eating bigger meals which further fuels the desire for frequent high energy snacks. This in turn exacerbates the stress on your system and will also affect your quality of sleep.

How can I help this? (or what should I be doing?)

The first thing we’re going to do is get you off sugar for 3 weeks. It’s important that you’re still eating whole, fibre rich carbohydrates during this time to keep your energy up and blood sugar balanced, but we’ll be avoiding fruit, honey, sugary snacks etc. This will be a challenge at first because your body will fight against it, but after 10 or so days you’ll feel far better. Finally, we’re also going to get you on supplements to balance your stress response, help control your insulin and get your energy up. After the programme, you can start introducing sweet snacks as a treat once a day or a few times a week.

I love HIIT and Cardio, will I always need to train like this?

No, you’ll be able to change things up once you’re feeling better but more importantly this process will show you how you can alter your training and nutrition to answer what your body needs at different times. Once you’re feeling more balanced, you should absolutely add in more cardio or HIIT. I would just ensure you’re balancing it with lower intensity and strength sessions like Yoga and Barre whilst you’re so stressed.

Remember the body always responds best to balance, so being aware of how you feel is the most important step. It means that you can judge things as you go – so if you’re going through a seriously stressful period like a product launch, you’ll know to skip the early morning HIIT and focus on barre and yoga with a little less cardio. If you’re not sleeping, you can do a few extra yoga classes to get you into balance. This process will help you get in touch with how your body responds to different types of training and nutrition, which is incredibly empowering. I’m confident that after the 8 weeks you’ll feel strong, energised and ready to take on anything again!

So there you have it, onwards and upwards, and here’s to me hopefully feeling much more like my old self in just a few weeks time! I hope you find this knowledge and insight from Rhian useful and if you can relate and are feeling run down remember to take time for yourself. Don’t let stress and the hustle of work get the better of you. This is so so important and something I’ve been neglecting, pretty silly of me when I’m all about #BETTERTREATYOURSELF. So here’s to practising what I preach. Keep an eye on my Instagram stories to keep up to date and hear how I’m getting on over the next few weeks.