It's easy for so many of us to believe that there's no such thing as too much exercise. We see images of modern day movie stars and television personalities and know in our hearts that these people must practically live in the gym.
We've read stories of how actors had to train for hours a day to prepare for a part where they needed to appear athletic. It's easy to get wrapped up in all the craziness of the media and Hollywood and decide to go to the extreme to make our bodies into replicas of these "perfect" beings.
Or Was That Just Me?
Most of my life I was easily driven to push myself beyond my limit, thinking I would have better results and look like the goddess I'd always wished to be as a result.
It was said of a certain figure skater, "She does one thousand crunches every day!" What did I do? I did one thousand crunches. Did I look like her afterwards? No, but I was in a great amount of pain for a few days.
I started running when I found out an actress I admired ran. What happened? I pushed myself way too far one evening and ended up with a bizarre heart murmur that would mysteriously come and go. I started working out with videos at home after that, but one video a day wasn't enough for me.
I pushed myself into doing three one-hour long tapes back to back to back every day. Did I look like a goddess yet? No, but I had a fever every night for quite a while.
I was told by a trainer in a Ft. Lauderdale gym that I could never do too much cardio. What did I do? I started doing two hours of cardio a day and I even managed three hours on one occasion. Did I resemble a Hollywood stick figure? No. But I managed to make myself ill for three months.
Oh, It Wasn't Just Me?
What is overtraining? Quite plainly, overtraining occurs when the amount of exercise we do goes beyond our capacity to recover from it. Pushing yourself too hard is way more common than most people realize.
There is a drive in many of us when we're just starting out to want to move beyond the "beginner" level. We want to push ourselves into the "advanced" category as quickly as possible, and get fitter and better and we want it now, now, now! But it isn't just newcomers to fitness who push themselves too far.
I've often seen seasoned athletes overtrain. Bodybuilders are often guilty of overtraining when they are preparing for a contest. They feel they need to work as hard as possible to be as ripped as possible, when in reality they need to tone down their exertion levels because they're taking in fewer calories during their pre-contest diet. Anyone can get caught up in doing too much, athletes and average folk alike.
So how do you know if you may be overtraining? Here are a few of the most common symptoms:
- General Aches And Pains
- Muscle Soreness
- Joint Pain
- Increased Resting Heart Rate
- Trouble Sleeping
- Loss Of Enthusiasm For Working Out
- Decreased Immunity
- Decreased Athletic Performance
Any of this sound familiar? Never fear. It's easy to counteract the effects of overtraining. Rest! A common mistake people make is to keep pushing through the pain and fatigue, thinking they will lose all the progress they've made if they were to take a break.
In my days as a group fitness instructor I would constantly remind my students to get enough rest.
I would see one student in particular who was so determined to lose weight she would train every single day for several hours at a time. She would be in the gym lifting weights and then take two of my classes back to back.
I warned her she'd be sick one day if she didn't give herself enough rest. I know she didn't take me seriously. Sure enough, she began catching colds easily and complaining about joint aches and constant fatigue. That didn't stop her from training, either. I hope she's still alive today.
What many of us are never taught as we begin an exercise regimen is that rest is equally as important as diet and exercise. Getting enough rest can only give you better results. Our bodies need a certain amount of time between workouts to recover and get stronger.
So how can you come up with an intelligent workout routine that's right for you? If you can afford it, nothing beats consulting with an experienced personal trainer who's worked with all kinds of bodies and has great expertise in nutrition.
A truly good trainer will make sure each client receives an individual program. They won't just give the same routine to everyone. In this day and age, everyone and their dog is certified as a personal trainer, so don't be afraid to shop around and find someone who's not only certified, but experienced with good references.
If you can't afford a personal trainer, you may want to do a little research on the web. Look for online fitness communities where you may be able to find some helpful advice. That's where I went when I was a confused newcomer to bodybuilding.
But even if you're not a bodybuilder, you can share your story with others and receive very helpful tips and insights from people who've been where you are right now. In no time you'll be able to design a workout program that's effective, yet won't make you ill.
I know it's tempting to go off the deep end when you see those "perfect" bodies on television, but TV and reality are two different things. It may be cliché, but train smart, not hard!
Listen to your body. If it's telling you to take a break, you'd be wise to take one. If not, your body might just find a way to put you on your back whether you like it or not.