Friday, 20 December 2013

I Used to be Fit

Embarrassing fact: I love I Used to be Fat on MTV. Can’t get enough of it. I even Tivo it to make sure I can always get my fix when I want it. I don’t know what it is about watching overweight teenagers dedicate their entire summers to losing weight that entertains and inspires me.


One thing I have noticed a whole lot, though, is the amount of vomiting that seems to go on in their first workouts. I mean, ew. I get the concept of elite athletes or SAS recruits pushing themselves to the point of puking, but 18-year-olds in the gym – really? While a little bit of me is impressed that they're able to push themselves that hard, most of me just finds it pretty gross, and surely unnecessary?

Then I did my first proper workout in months (well, years) yesterday. Just to put this in context – I am by no means overweight (although I will be delighted when my bottom stops moving independently of the rest of me) but I am ridiculously unfit compared with my university days. With the pressures of job, commuting, house and husband, and just generally Being An Adult, I’ve gradually lost fitness over the last 5 or 6 years, and the less said about my tennis skills these days, the better.

So there I was yesterday, at the gym I’ve been wasting membership fees on for the last half decade, designing a new gym programme and going through a nice little circuit with a PT. I guess the fact that I don’t look too out of shape, plus the fact that I have a vague idea of what I’m talking about in a gym setting, falsely reassured him. And, let’s face it, when I threw myself at the circuit hell for leather, my brain clearly thought I was still 25 and at the peak of my fitness.

To my credit, I did complete the circuit - once. Killed it, in fact ;) Then I had to retire to nearly faint and be sick. In fact, I felt nauseated for the next half hour. Seriously thought I was going to throw up there. And in that moment I identified so much more with the poor I Used to be Fat kids, even though for me it was more a case of I Used to be Fit.

I’ve got another date with the gym tomorrow, and this time I actually want to get through the circuit more than once. Doing the prescribed cardio workout after the circuits would be nice too. I definitely don’t want to spend another half hour sitting next to the bin willing myself not to throw up. So, in the interests of not looking like a complete jessie again, I’ve done a little bit of research on How Not To Chuck Up at the gym, and this is what I’ve come up with.

There are basically three points during your workout when you might feel/be sick: before, during or after.

This will probably be due to anxiety, nerves or excitement. I definitely used to feel sick before tennis matches, and even a tough scheduled workout can bring on the nerves. This is basically due to the fight-or-flight response that releases adrenaline and causes you to feel tense, jittery and sick.

The solution here is to employ your favourite nerve-calming strategies – deep breathing, visualisation, going back to your familiar pre-match/workout routines – whatever works for you.

The most common cause of nausea and vomiting during exercise is the diversion of blood and energy away from less important systems (such as your gut) towards the parts of you body that need it most during a hard workout (mainly skeletal muscle, heart and lungs).

For this reason, you need to make sure your gut isn’t already overloaded – so don’t eat too soon before exercising. The amount of time you need to leave varies from person to person, but 2-3 hours is probably about right. On the other hand, don’t do a hard workout without having eaten anything at all – low blood sugar is another good way to feel sick and dizzy.

Don’t take in too much sugar during your workout either – there’s only so much your stomach can deal with. If you’re taking gels, make sure you take them with water rather than a sports drink, or you risk taking in more glucose than you can handle. You also need to make sure you’re well hydrated before you start –  dehydration causes nausea, plus if you have to drink too much during your workout your stomach will just reject it.

This is usually caused by the sudden cessation of exertion – your body just isn’t ready for you to stop abruptly. I think this was my problem yesterday – when I finished the circuit I just felt tired. As soon as I sat down, I felt sick and dizzy.

The solution to this is to keep moving, even if only gently, between sets or circuits, and to cool down properly at the end of your workout.

I am totally going to follow my own advice before tomorrow’s workout. I’m already hydrating, I’ve got my pre-workout breakfast planned and I definitely won’t make the mistake of going straight from 100% effort to sitting on a step again – the results are just too unpleasant.