Sunday 5 June 2016

How Intense Workouts(and overtraining) Can Wreck Your Results

Here’s how to know what’s TOO MUCH when it comes to exercise.

In the fitness industry, everyone’s obsessed with “more”. More cardio. More squats. More gym time. More calorie restriction. But if you’re not careful, “more” can lead to overtraining, injury, and illness. Here’s how to know what’s TOO MUCH when it comes to exercise.
I’ve been a Professional Personal Trainer (PPT) and Strength and Conditioning Coach for nearly 35 years and I’ve seen many of them treat their bodies like teenagers learning to drive a car.
Full speed ahead on killer workouts! Max effort each time! Add another hour of cardio!
Screeeech !
Get hurt. Get sick. Feel discouraged.
Cut calories! Weigh and measure everything!
Screeeech !
Lose control. Feel even more discouraged.
I see this cycle of alternatively slamming the gas, then brake, then gas, then brake constsntly.
When they decide to get moving, they go hard.
They throw everything — energy, time, resources — at their their weight loss, strength gain, or health goals. They feel invigorated and energized, high on their new workout drug.
Have you tried Workout X? they ask their coworkers.
Have you tried Diet Y ? It’s incredible. I lost 4 stone in 5 days!
This full throttle approach seems to work for a little while.
Until… it doesn’t.
One day it’s hard to get out of bed. Shoulders and knees ache a bit. They get a bit of a cough or feel run down.
A week later they miss an easy lift. They reach for the ice pack. No big deal.
The week after, they’re dialing their chiro or physio’s office. Or lying on the couch with a back spasm that feels like giving bellybutton birth to a sea urchin.
What happened? Where did it all go wrong?
The problem isn’t the exercise, or even the intensity.
The problem is not balancing stress with recovery.
Training vs. straining.
Exercise is a stressor. Usually a good one. But a stressor nonetheless.
If you exercise intensely and/or often, you add stress to a body that may already be stressed from other life stuff like work, relationships, travel, late nights, etc.
This isn’t a bad thing. Exercise can indeed help relieve stress.
But in terms of a physical demand, we still need to help our bodies recover from all the stress we experience.
How well you’ll recover (and how much extra recovery you might need) depends on your allostatic load — i.e. how much total stress you’re under at any given moment.In other words, those days when you were late for work and your boss yelled at you and you spilled ketchup on your favorite shirt and you were up all night caring for a sick child — and then you went to the gym and tried to nail a PR?
It’ll take longer for you to recover from that workout than it would have if you’d done it on a day you slept well, woke up to sunshine, and had a terrific breakfast.
The right amount of exercise, at the right intensity, and the right time:
We train. We learn. We get healthier and stronger.
Too much exercise, with too high an intensity, too often:
We strain. We stress. We shut down. And break down.
Mission Control: Our bodies.
Overtraining isn’t a failure of willpower or the fate of weak-minded wimps. Our bodies have complex feedback loops and elegant shutdown systems that actively prevent us from over-reaching or pushing ourselves too hard.
Two systems are at play:
•Our central nervous system (CNS) acts like a car engine regulator. If the engine on a car revs too high for too long, it shuts down. Similarly, if we exercise too much, our train tries to protect our muscles by reducing the rate of nerve impulses so we can’t (or don’t want to) move as much. And we certainly can’t work as hard.
•Local fatigue, the result of energy system depletion and/or metabolic byproduct accumulation, makes your muscles feel really tired, lethargic, and weak. Using our car analogy, this is sort of like running out of gas.
Training too frequently and intensely — again, without prioritizing recovery — means that stress never subsides.We never get a chance to put gas in the tank or change the oil. We just drive and drive and drive, mashing the pedals harder and harder.
If we “lift the hood” we might see:
•Poor lubrication: Our connective tissues are creaky and frayed.
•Radiator overheating: More inflammation.
•Battery drained: Feel-good brain chemicals and anabolic (building-up) hormones have gone down.
•Rust: Catabolic (breaking-down) hormones such as cortisol have gone up.
As a result, you might experience:
•Blood sugar ups and downs.
•Depression, anxiety, and/or racing thoughts.
•Trouble sleeping or early wakeups.
•Food cravings, maybe even trouble controlling your eating.
•Lower metabolism due to decreased thyroid hormone output.
•Disrupted sex hormones (which means less mojo overall, and in women, irregular or missing menstrual cycles).
Here’s the thing.You don’t get to decide if you need recovery or not.Your body will decide for you.If you don’t build recovery into your plan, your body will eventually force it.
The more extreme your overtraining, the more you’ll “pay” via illness, injury, or exhaustion. The more severe the payback, the more “time off” you’ll need from exercise.
That’s a bummer. Now your car has stalled, or worse — gone backwards. Argh.
What drives people to overtrain?  
1. Some depend on intense exercise to feel good about themselves.
They might tell themselves it’s “for their health” or “to get the perfect body”.But, the truth is, many people depend on their extreme exercise regimen to feel good about themselves.
Take this story from a client of mine.
Early on in the program, a client’s weight went up a few pounds on a particular measurement day. I went on high alert.
I called her and could hear the treadmill rolling in the background. “Uh, what are you doing… right now?”
Turns out she was into her 40th minute of a 60 minute “post-measurement day guilt workout”.
I yelled, “Get off the *&%! treadmill… Now!”
Right then and there we made each other a promise: Stick to the rules. Every client receives a set of rules they must stick to. No exceptions and rule number 1 says “ Do exactly what I instruct you to do “.
She was terrified of eating more and doing less. But, after her first week of “eating more and doing less”, she lost 3 pounds.
A few months later, she’d lost 10 pounds and 6% body fat. She looked healthy, fit and amazing. People would ask for her secret.
Those intense, laborious workouts can feel good. Almost… too good.
Strenuous exercise releases chemicals that kill pain and make us happy… temporarily.
By the way, these chemicals are also released when your body thinks you’re in big trouble and about to die. Their evolutionary job is to help us float away in a happy painless haze as the saber-toothed tiger is eating our arm off. So in a sense, they’re stress-related chemicals.
For some people, these chemicals become a “hit”.
Pushing their bodies to the limit and working hard becomes their drug.
2. Intense exercise gives you a sense of control over your body and life.
It’s drilled into people’s heads via popular media: If you want control over how your body looks, hit the gym (and then hit it again).
Here’s another client’s story, in their own words:
I have trained and dieted for over 10 years, each time hoping that this training round would be the one that got me thinner.But the harder I worked, the more frustrated I got. Which I used to propel myself harder, over more miles.The more I trained, the hungrier I was. It was a massive battle against appetite, all day long.
I never got thinner. Sometimes I gained.
I got stressed out, cold after cold after random infection, and increasingly unhappy with myself.For me, what I needed to finally drop those last 5-10 pounds wasn’t exercise for 1-2 hours a day, it was to go harder for shorter periods of time, and give myself enough downtime to recover.It became so much easier to achieve a slight energy deficit when my body felt more at-ease, less pushed to the limits all the time.Muscles stayed and got stronger. Fat shrunk away.
People who overtrain often want to try hard and do their best to reach their goals. They think they’re “doing what it takes”.
If some exercise is good, more must be better, right?
3. Most people don’t know that overtraining can work against them.
My new clients who have been overtraining are often shocked to learn they’re doing too much. Nobody’s ever told them that there’s a “sweet spot” for exercise that balances work and recovery.
Usually, people learn about the risks of overtraining the hard way — like this client who came to me unable to shake this nagging injury.
"Last week I injured my ribs and back. Not enough to put me out of commission, and it’s not serious, but it was a real pain in the ass.Certain positions and actions (like sneezing) felt like a knife in my side. I had to cut certain exercises out (e.g. push-ups), and I couldn’t jump rope or sprint, either."
I cut his workouts to every other day, and I  cut back on the weight , and for the intervals, scale back the intensity.
Now here’s the interesting part: When he was done with the workouts, he felt really good, as opposed to the fall-on-the-floor wiped out feeling I usually have. And he wasn’t sore the next day either.
In fact, he has been really looking forward to these workouts.
He thought: Hey, this is fun!
But then he had this other nagging thought: Am I just a wimp?
Anyway, all this got him thinking: What the hell am I working out so hard every day for? Should I be killing myself? I’m not a competitor. Nobody knows or cares how fast I run or how much I squat. He starting to think he should be ending a workout feeling like “I could do that again right now if I had to.” I call that “training”.
The opposite would be pushing myself to the limit frequently, feeling completely pooped after a workout. I call that “straining”
It seems pretty obvious  you won’t make a lot of fast progress by “training”, but on the other hand, you gotta wonder: How long can you keep going if I am “straining”?
Sometimes, less is more.Putting in a consistent good effort over the long haul is much more sustainable than cycles of “crash and burn”.
This client’s slow and steady efforts paid off — he lost 20 pounds and 10 percent of his body fat in 6 months.
More importantly, he recovered, stayed uninjured, and kept having fun.
Do what truly works.
Look, if “pump till you puke” and hours of treadmill torture worked, I’d make my clients do it.
But it doesn’t work.
So I don’t do it.
Exercise should make us feel, look, perform and live better… not crush us.
Movement should help us function freely… not incapacitate us
What if you could leave the gym feeling energized, not exhausted?
What if, instead of doing more, you could do better?
Recovery: Overtraining antidote.
Here’s your first tip: “Overtraining” isn’t exactly the problem.
The problem is more like “under-recovering”.Your body can actually handle a tremendous amount of work… if you recover properly and fully from that work.
Your stress-recovery pattern should look like rolling hills: For every up (training or life stress) there’s a down (recovery).
For every intense workout, there’s an equally intense focus on activities that help your body repair and rebuild.
This doesn’t mean you need to retreat to your dark and quiet blanket fort and get massages every day… although that does sound awesome.
Check out my recovery tips below.
Free your mind, and your body will follow.
When you factor in recovery as a crucial part of your training regimen, a funny thing happens.
You start to think of training completely differently.
What if you could “exercise” on a continuum — where every movement “counts”?
What if you could balance high with low, heavy with light, work with play in a natural, organic rhythm?
Here are some ways to find balance.
An effective physical activity routine incorporates:
1.Resistance training
3.Active recovery
You can do that no matter how much time you have to devote to physical activity. No pain,No gain is insane. Be sure to schedule in recovery days or an active recovery the same way you schedule and plan your training days.
Train Smarter.... Not Harder !

1 comment:

  1. Excellent advice from a very wise man that knows a lot about how to train without killing yourself



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