At this time of year, fitness motivation is running high.
New Years resolutions have been set and people everywhere are flocking to their local fitness centers to make good on their promise to exercise regularly.
This is good news, right?
In fact, up to 5% of the population exercises beyond what’s considered healthy – They are known as “excessive exercisers” and the number of people who fall into this category balloons each January.
We hear so much about the obesity epidemic and our need for more physical activity. How much of a problem can too much exercise really be?
Actually, it can become quite a serious one.
Over-training can lead to chronic stress, sickness, injury, and an inability to shed fat! That’s right, too much exercise can actually slow down your metabolism and incite your body to hold onto a “safety blanket” of fat!
What’s the solution?
Here are 4 simple rules you can follow to ensure you don’t fall into the trap of over-training.
1. Feel No Guilt When Taking a Day Off
“Exercise at least 30 minutes each and every day.”
That’s the rule of thumb we’ve been given from doctors and government health agencies. And this rule can hold true, except when exercise becomes quite intense and physically demanding.
Exercise is a form of stress, and just like any other type of stress, your body can only handle so much before it begins to break down. If you are exercising at a high intensity (I’m looking at you Shaun T), then it’s not only okay to take a day off, but it’s necessary.
This can present psychological turmoil for someone who has just started a new exercise regime.
“I don’t want to fall off track!”
But keep in mind that you are doing your body a favor and will actually be speeding up the results you’ll see from your exercise.
2. Forget the “No Pain, No Gain” Mentality
If you can burn 300 calories during a yoga class or you can burn 800 calories by running on the treadmill, which is the better choice?
Yes, 800 calories is more than 300, but the benefits of gentle exercise cannot be overstated.
Just like taking a full day of rest from exercise, changing up your exercise routine to include active recovery can dramatically improve your progress.
Practicing yoga is a perfect example of a form of exercise that will keep you moving, will help you build strength and burn calories, all while giving your body the downtime it needs.
Here is an example of an excellent beginner-friendly yoga sequence that can help you avoid the “no pain, no gain” fallacy.
Pain can mean you’re working hard, but it doesn’t have to present in order for you to see results.
3. Get Started and Get It Done Quickly
People like round numbers.
Most of us like to exercise for 30 minutes or 60 minutes, maybe even 45 minutes (that’s sort of round, isn’t it?)
What about doing 13 minutes of exercise? Or just 9 minutes?
Plenty of research has shown that short bursts of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be more effective than drawn out exercise routines that lasts 2, 3, or even 4 times longer.The idea that a workout has to take an hour in order for it to be effective is simply outdated.
Listen to your body and allow yourself the freedom to lengthen or shorten your workouts based on how hard you’ve worked and how spent your body feels.
Here’s an example of a full-body workout that will take just 5 or 6 minutes. Get started and get it done!
Prolonging a workout simply to reach that “magic round number” on the clock uses up more of your time and risks unnecessary stress for your body.
4. Sleep More!
How many hours of sleep do you get each night?
If you’re like many people, you’re not getting enough. Researchers debate the ideal number of sleeping hours an adult needs (although it’s roughly 7 hours), but nobody would dispute that the more you exercise, the more sleep your body needs.
Too often we focus on exercise and healthy eating when it come to losing weight or getting in better shape, but that’s a short-sighted approach. Exercise will only lead to improved fitness if you properly fuel your body (i.e. eat the right food) and allow your muscles to recover, grow, and become stronger (i.e. sleep).
Consider sleep when determining how much exercise is the right amount for you. If your sleep is in short supply, then your body’s tolerance for exercise is reduced. Sleeping more will help you bounce back after a hard workout and reduces your likelihood of over-training.
About the Author
Dave Smith is a professional fitness and weight-loss coach who was chosen as “Canada’s Top Fitness Professional” in 2013. If you want to kickstart your metabolism and get some great fitness results, try his 7-Day Body Reboot program [it’s 100% FREE].