Jordan Younger, aka The Balanced Blonde, shares how she developed an exercise plan that works for her—at least right now.
When it comes to working out, I have gone to the max and back. I have had every type of routine in the book, from running seven days a week with no rest days to totally falling off the wagon because I burned myself out on the high-intensity lifestyle. I have run half marathons on juice cleanses (bad idea—very bad), and I have stuffed my face during marathon trainings for fear that I wasn’t refueling properly.
I have put tons of pressure on myself to look a certain way and be as physically fit as possible, and over the years I have realized that in my efforts to achieve I was actually doing myself more harm than good. By overworking my body (and my mind), I learned that I didn’t need to fit into an ideal of what a “fit” person is; what I needed was an exercise plan that fit me. So I scaled back to focus on something that works far, far better for me: feeling good in my body, moving because it feels amazing, and letting my internal compass guide the way.
When you do exercise that you love and you listen to your body in the process, maintaining the routine is shockingly easy. When we workout for other reasons—cough, cough, to look a certain way—then routines can be tricky. They can keep us on track, but sometimes they create added pressure and make exercise feel more like a chore than something that is fun and good for us. Also, as we evolve, our routines should evolve alongside of us.
Right now, I personally am a fan of a loose fitness routine, a mix of yoga, running, and HIIT (high intensity interval training). I typically do yoga every day in some form or another, run once a week, and do HIIT once a week. This is vastly different from my routine a year ago, or even just a few months ago! Lately I have been gravitating toward more low-intensity workouts (cue the yoga life!) because my body has been responding extremely well to less of the rigorous exercise and more of a restorative, self-care type of fitness.
This time last year I was running a lot. I ran the LA Marathon last February, and while it was a bucket list goal and something I most definitely want to do again in my lifetime, my body was like, “What is going on with all of these miles and this pavement pounding?!” I actually put on weight during my training and the months after the race, because I needed so much more food and nourishment to sustain all of the calories I was burning. My cortisol levels were also off the charts—that’s a hormone that our body produces in reaction to stress—which was adding to the swollen, off-balance feeling my body was experiencing.
I was also doing HIIT about five to six days a week, for a variety of reasons, both good and…less good. I absolutely love my gym (OrangeTheory Fitness!) and loved beginning my day with all of the people who have become my close friends there. At the same time, the routine in and of itself became sort of an addiction. Wake up, go to the gym, sprint on the treadmill and lift heavy weights, come back home and get to work. It was nonstop and in addition to being a physical strain, it only added to my stress—not exactly helping me toward my self-care goals.
After I embarked on an Ayurvedic Panchakarma in August, a restorative detoxification treatment involving massage, herbal therapy, meditation, deep reflection, and a technology cleanse, I realized I needed to tone it down with the high intensity workouts. I didn’t work out at all for about 10 days during that treatment, and once it was finished, my body just didn’t feel like hopping back into my previous running and HIIT routine.
Courtesy Jordan Younger
I was shocked! I thought for sure I would be itching to get back to my running and interval training. I had been so competitive with myself about upping my miles, working on my speed, and lifting heavier weights. I was actually very nervous to do the Panchakarma because I didn’t want to lose my progress in the gym and wondered if I could even let myself relax for 10 days without giving in to taking a class.
Instead, when I finished the detox, I gravitated toward yoga. My body started to crave it from the inside out. Yoga has been a big part of my life for many years, but my dedication to the practice has always come in ebbs and flows. Right now I can’t get enough—from practicing daily to teaching almost every day to reading all of the spiritual and yogi books I can get my hands on. Sweaty vinyasa classes, restorative slow-flows, even Iyengar alignment-based classes that I was never interested in until recently have all been calling my name on the daily.
I know that part of my obsession with running, HIIT, and all types of high-intensity workouts had to do with the fact that I was desperately trying to be the strongest, fastest, most physically fit version of myself. Especially as a fitness blogger with so much of my life revolving around writing about fitness, fitness photo shoots, sharing my workout opinions, attending fitness events, and so much more, I felt the pressure big time to be strong, lean and on top of my game. Now, I’m beginning to let go of that pressure and everything it embodied for me.
That’s especially true now that I see my body and my mind have both been responding so well to yoga, stretching, and low-intensity. I lost the extra weight my body was carrying from the high cortisol levels, and my hormones have begun to balance out. I also crave more nourishing, nutrient-rich foods now that my body isn’t in a constant state of hunger, hunger, and more hunger from my super rigorous workouts. Most importantly, my mind is at peace, I have been sleeping better, and I don’t feel nearly as much anxiety as I used to.
I feel calmer, less stressed and more collected at all times with my yoga practice being the cornerstone of my routine. It helps that yoga is a mind, body, soul practice, and not just about the physical exercise. Being such a highly sensitive, deeply contemplative person, having that time to reflect and flow on my mat is a form of therapy. It is practically euphoric for me, and I have found myself to be more balanced in all areas of my life because of it.
At the end of the day, it’s my passion for how yoga makes my body feel that keeps me dedicated to my routine. I know how good I feel when I practice every day, and I also know that my body feels even better when I get a run or HIIT class in once a week—without overdoing it! (Most trainers agree you should limit HIIT workouts to a few times a week at most.) I may not respond well to cardio overkill, but a bit of cardio does my body good and keeps me feeling strong and in balance.
I can be very all or nothing, so I try to be easy on myself if I miss a day or two of what I think I “should” be doing in my loose routine. Over the holidays, I went days without doing a full yoga practice or going on a run, and guess what? I was completely fine. When I got back on my mat several days later, my practice felt better than ever because my body had so much time to rest and recuperate.
To maintain my routine, I make lots of workout and yoga plans with my friends during the week to keep myself in check. I am lucky to have a lot of likeminded people in my life who are happy to meet for a yoga class in the evening and then get a healthy dinner afterward. I also set goals every single morning during my morning meditation practice, and re-dedicate myself to moving at least once a day, whether that turns out to be a restorative yoga class or a run around my neighborhood.
I listen to my body above all else. When life gets busy and I take too many days off from exercising, my body tells me what’s up. My back starts to ache, I get more headaches, and I get really antsy and more irritable. I also don’t sleep nearly as well when I am not up on my exercise routine. So I check in with myself every day to make sure that I am giving myself what I need and helping my body feel as good as physically possible.
I know that fitness routines, like our bodies, are ever-evolving. I am sure there will be more times in my life where I gravitate toward lots of running and more intensity. Perhaps that will be at a stage when my life itself is not so high-intensity! With my fast-paced blogging career and my frequent teaching schedule, low intensity has been feeling so right and making me feel amazing.
Ultimately, health is all about maintaining balance. This is something that I’ve had to learn the long, hard way for myself, and it’s what I’m so honored to be able to share with people as a Wellness Ambassador for Kohl’s. Don’t let the pressure of wanting to be the fittest version of yourself get in the way of doing the workouts that work best for you and make you feel the most amazing. And also, don’t let your routine get in the way of enjoying life, spending time with people you love, and resting when you need to. If you listen to your body and keep your goals focused on feeling great above all else, maintaining your routine will become shockingly easy. I promise!