We often share the impact of our fast-paced working lifestyles and always-on culture on our health and well-being. But what’s sometimes overlooked is our propensity to apply the same speed to our wellness activities, especially our fitness routines.
Burnout in wellness
Trend forecasters The Future Laboratory explains, “Wellness has been in accelerator mode but the sector has fallen victim to an unhealthy narrative.” The popularity of HIIT-inspired classes (exercising at high intensity for short periods, followed by active recovery or rest) is a prime example of this trend. HIIT and strenuous exercise promises results in a shorter space of time, fitting into our busy lifestyles. Yet, this style of exercise also runs a higher risk of injury, as well as lowered libido and, in extreme cases, gastrointestinal issues through huge spikes in stress levels.
“Wellness has been in accelerator mode…”The Future Laboratory
While we can recognise that sustained stress at work can lead to burnout, many of us are not there yet with our relationship with exercise. We push ourselves to achieve in the gym, encouraged by a similar performance culture to that of the office, and often rely on high intensity workouts as a patch for a lifestyle of limited movement and an inconsistent exercise routine. The Future Laboratory adds, “The health and wellness sector has perpetuated a narrative of fitter, stronger and more zen, which, conversely, is leading to burnout.”
Someone who has had a slow fitness epiphany is co-founder of Shoreditch’s Lift: The Movement fitness studio, Angus Martin. As an ex-rugby player who got into body building and power lifting, it took one operation and four years of rehab to undo the damage he had done to his body. The antithesis of intense, music-pumping gyms, Lift: The Movement is flooded with natural light, offers a minimalist aesthetic and runs classes that help visitors ‘train for longevity’ and improve mobility. The Re-Gen class, for example, tackles the issues caused by our sedentary lifestyles.
Slow is conscious
The Future Laboratory calls the reevaluation of our wellness pursuits ‘conscious deceleration’. Others call slow fitness ‘conscious movement’. Speaking to NBC News on the rising interest in mindful workouts, personal trainer Cary Raffle explains, “where CrossFit and HIIT are about completing a lot of exercises in a short time with little or no regard to form, conscious movement is at the opposite end of the spectrum.”
Like the wider slow movement, this oozes a sense of time, mindfulness and purposeful living. Yet, slow fitness also doesn’t have to mean working out at a snail’s pace. It’s about connecting mind and body, working out intuitively and tapping into the type of exercise your body needs in that moment, rather than aiming for standards set by fitness adverts and social media. Much like burnout shouldn’t be a badge of honour at work, collapsing in a heap after the gym and ignoring niggling injuries shouldn’t be either.
Advocates for this mindful approach to fitness adopt a slower pace, but also consistency. While HIIT is effective and not inherently bad, slow fitness is about recognising your own recovery time and being patient as you build your strength, rather than hurtling full steam into a workout that your body isn’t ready for.
It’s worth remembering that overtraining and hitting it too hard in the gym may also not bring you any closer to your goals. Overtraining syndrome occurs when your body can’t recover due to constant, strenuous exercise. Milder symptoms include severe tiredness and feeling run-down, while in the most serious cases, insomnia, aching of muscles that haven’t been used during exercise and hormonal and emotional changes, including lower self esteem and motivation levels, have been noticed. Another sign is consistent poor performance in workouts.
Slow, steady and considered most definitely wins the race.