If a little is good, then a lot is better, right? Not always. On Fridays I teach a strength class at our local YMCA. It’s always a packed house with folks that want to end the week, or begin the weekend, with a good workout. So, for 60 minutes, my goal is to get each and every person out of their comfort zone, to feel challenged, to have a great experience and have fun getting stronger and more fit.
I try to mix it up each week, so no gets bored, and we work different muscle groups in different ways. We typically do lots of squats, lunges, overhead presses, chest flies, core work and lots of moves that work multiple muscle groups at the same time. I am often pretty sore myself on Saturday mornings! Near the close of class I almost always tell them NOT to come back the next day for a strength class. I tell them to take a walk, do their cardio, take a yoga class – anything but a workout that works the same muscles in the same manner.
I’m not just saying that to have something to say in class. I’m saying it so that the workout we have completed, all the hard work just done, will have its full benefit. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I bring this up because on Saturday I ran into one of my regular class participants. She asked me to repeat what I told the class about not doing the same workout and asked me to explain it. She went on to tell me how hard she was working out, doing back to back tough workouts, working out seven days a week and often doing more than one workout in a day. She confessed she was having back issues, her hips were hurting and her joints ached. It sounds like she is definitely overtraining – so she is missing out on getting the benefit from all of her hard work.
The fact is, hitting the gym too often makes a person less fit. Working out to get leaner, stronger and more fit will backfire when a person doesn’t take a break. Exercise makes tiny little tears in the muscle fibers. In order for the fibers to build up, they need to rest. Another result of overtraining by doing the same workout day after day, is the stress it puts on the body. That stress triggers cortisol which is linked to belly fat.
Then there is the fatigue factor. If a person is exhausted from workouts they have less energy to do anything else, and get in other movement, throughout the day.
I really stressed this next point to my class participant. She said she would feel guilty about taking a day off. I confessed to her I used to have that guilt. I used to think I had to kill it every single day and if I missed one single day I would lose all my gains or get fat overnight. That guilt was awful! It is so untrue! I hope you’ve been around this site long enough to know that I’m a big believer in working out for more reasons than looking good in skinny jeans. I want folks to exercise because it makes you feel good, is good for you, helps you fight aging, brings on those feel good endorphins and because you CAN.
Take a Rest Day.
Rethink a rest day – take an active rest day. A rest day doesn’t mean stay on the couch all day. It means being smart. Alternating a hard workout day with a more moderate one so your body has a chance to recover. A rest day can be a long walk, yoga, playing basketball with your kids, gardening or a good foam roll session.
Quality Over Quantity.
Think about having a good, quality workout over one you have to mail in because you are tired. Put quality over quantity. Instead of being obsessed with a daily workout, make each workout count—and then be satisfied when you’re done. It mean no junk workouts – it means opt out of extra workouts that will hinder recovery, steal energy from a future session and may even lead to injury.
Appreciate Your Gift
Your body is your gift. Not everyone can get to a gym or run three miles or go to a spin class. Appreciate all that your body is to you and what it does for you daily. Take care of it so you can continue doing the things you want to do for the next twenty years! If you are overtraining your body now, killing it 24/7 then there is a risk that you will be limited in what your body can do later down the road.
I want people to move, be healthy, keep moving and being healthy for years to come. By working carefully and being smart – stressing the body to create change, then allowing it to recover and the muscles to grow – you’ll find the magic formula to become stronger and more fit.
Here’s to stopping the insanity . . .
Enjoy Your Day!