We live in a culture of more is better but when it comes to exercise more is not always better. In some cases it's just down right worse. There is a growing culture in the fitness industry of late that more intensity, more volume of workouts per week and more of the same thing is the only way to get serious about your fitness. I wholeheartedly disagree and I have seen this result in serious injury, total burnout and illness as well as mental and emotional fatigue and irritability. I consider over exercising a form of self sabotage or self-harm and I can speak from personal experience on this. I have grossly over-exercised at times in my life and it's never led to anything good. So, this week I talk about how much is too much and how to find a balance that works for you and your life. Remember you are only ever competing against yourself!
Too much intensity
In the past few years there has been an uprising of high intensity group workouts which really push the limits of intensity to the threshold. But the most shocking story I recently heard was of a gym in NYC that does the toughest workout ever burning a minimum of 1000 calories in a hour. Apparently you get a badge of recognition if you can get through the warmup without stopping. Are you kidding me? A warmup is not a place to compete - EVER! That is just dangerous. The point of a warmup is to prepare your body for the intensity of your workout. If your warmup is the workout you are putting yourself at greater risk of injury because your body is not warm yet!
An easy way to measure the intensity of your workout is to wear a heart rate monitor. Set your age and weight and it will calculate training zones for you. A high intensity workout oscillates between 70-90% of your maximum between 1-3 minutes. You can work longer than 3 minutes depending on what you are training for and your current fitness level. For strength training heart rate monitors are not so effective because time under tension is often shorter than a minute and you get a delayed heart rate increase. And FYI a warmup should work from 50-70% over a period of 7-10 minutes.
Too much volume
This is the biggest problem I have with too much - too much volume. Volume is the number of training sessions or the total amount of hours spent exercising per week. Everyone thinks the more I exercise the quicker I'll achieve my goal. Not true. Over exercising induces a prolonged sympathetic stress state which leads to mental, emotional and physical burnout. It can also lead to injury.
I talk more about volume in next weeks blog (The work-in is the new workout) but here are the basics; for general health, wellness and fitness choose 2-3 high intensity (between 70-90% of your max effort) 40-60 minute workouts a week. Balance that out with 1-2 calmer work-ins like yoga or tai chi. When you go through more stressful times you can switch this to 2-3 work-ins and 1-2 workouts. For very stressful times I would opt for the work-ins only. Movement helps to relieve stress if it is done in a gentle and reparative way.
Too much of the same thing
Another problem of too much - is doing too much of the same thing. This can lead to injury because of continuous repetitive motion particularly from running and cycling. It also becomes very boring and can lead to mental burnout and then stopping exercise altogether. As humans we have amazing movement potential and I believe we should utilise and practice the diversity of human movement as much as possible.
Changing it up
I always encourage my clients to a variety of different exercise and sports. Try new things until you find something you like. Team sports are always fun to be a part of and I also really value solo workouts like running or cycling when you can be with yourself. Hit the gym, go to a class, in London there are so many options! As long as you are doing good movement - vary it as much as you can.
Train smart not stupid
So in conclusion your body and your mind will thank you if you train smart not stupid. Harder is not always better. If you are training for a specific sport or event that does require very high intensity training then seek out a professional to guide you. Just as you are specialist at what you do and people seek out your skills to help them, so are sports and fitness professionals specialists at helping you train.
Lastly, as I said in the third paragraph, as long as you are doing good movement. If you are not sure what good movement is and have never sought out help with learning what good movement is then I would highly advocate that you do. We seek out specialist advice for everything else - movement masters are there to help you learn better movement. Once you know the basics then you can apply it to any sport, class or workout. We can definitely help you with that at Precision Movement! - contact us to discuss your specific situation.