Nicki Anderson: Over-exercising can trump good intentions
By Nicki Anderson email@example.com June 25, 2012 12:32PM
Updated: July 28, 2012 6:11AM
Summer weather is no doubt the most active time of year for Midwesterners. Great weather outside seems to eliminates excuses.
Athletes and weekend warriors alike kick up their activity before the cooler temperatures sneak in. A common misstep, however, is going from either zero activity or moderate activity to high-intensity and lengthy workouts. This approach skips the most important part of healthy exercise: progression.
Although we know exercising is vital to overall health, over-exercising can take the best of intentions and turn them into injuries as a result of too much stress on the body.
“We know the increased risk of cardiovascular disease from lack of exercise. But, recent studies show that consistent, extreme cardio exercise can actually increase the risk of heart disease,” said Nick Sabino, lead instructor at The National Personal Training Institute in Lisle.
“Studies showed a five-fold increase in the risk of ‘over-exercisers.’ It’s an interesting conundrum that most people don’t seem to understand in our society of excess. ‘If some is good, then more must be better, right?’”
Dr. Robert Weil, “The Sports Doctor,” who specializes in podiatry, orthotics and sports medicine in Naperville, has certainly seen his share of injuries from overdoing it.
“Extremes on either end can be a problem. We all recognize the perils of under doing it — excess weight, lack of energy, sleep problems, feeling guilty,” he says.
“As a sports podiatrist, we’re always dealing with overuse injuries from overdoing it. So, like Grandma said, ‘Everything in moderation’. If you or your kids are serious athletes or exercisers, then we compromise — otherwise consistency is the key.”
According to Sabino, you can identify over-exercising by some of the following symptoms, increased resting heart rate, increased blood pressure and loss of performance.
“The problem,” Sabino says, “by the time these symptoms occur, the person is already over-trained.”
Those symptoms include loss of motivation, lack of concentration and decreased joy from training.
Additionally, anxiousness, agitation and even the issues of decreased immune function (getting sick) and sleep disturbances (noting an inability to fall or stay asleep).
There are hormonal symptoms and neural symptoms, as well, but since we can’t see inside the body, the more obvious symptoms are easier to recognize.
So how does one get past the barrier that enough truly is enough?
“The key is breaking into the psyche — a daunting task to be sure.,” Sabino says.
“The fact that the body is displaying these symptoms because you are over-stressing the system is a forewarning of far worse things to come.”
Sabino always tells his students that you cannot pick a fight with your body.
“It has far too many weapons at its disposal to shut you down: psychological, injury, illness, sleep deprivation, etc.”
Whether it’s you or someone you know, over-exercising has to start with the realization that more is certainly not better.
Realize that it’s OK to have days off in the routine. Consider reducing the amount of time for your workout sessions.
For example, if you’re pushing for an hour, drop it back to 30 minutes for a couple of weeks. See how you feel.
Over-exercising is not just a summer phenomenon, making over-zealous new year’s resolutions also is another time of year when this is common place. If you’ve been a product of an overly industrious plan that resulted in an injury or burnout, you may better appreciate the value in starting off slow and practicing reasonable progression.
For those that over-do it, the idea of slowing down or taking it easy may feel completely counter-intuitive to what you’ve been practicing, but at the end of the day, it’s the smartest, safest and most efficient way to exercise.
Do you have an inspiring story about your journey to fitness? Share it with columnist Nicki Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.