Exercise is good! There is no doubt to that statement. Can one do too much? Absolutely! In times when one is feeling too good or just being stupid, too much exercise can and will become counterproductive to the original course. But how much is too much and what about all this rhetoric about pushing it to the limits? Do you need to always keep the pedal to the metal so to speak when it comes to exercise or is there a happy medium?
When To Push
In my many years of being a fitness professional, I’m convinced that many have no idea what it means to increase their exercise intensity let alone understand what that means. In simple terms, intensity is simply a term used to describe how hard you’re working. It can be measured subjectively (“Man that kicked my ass!”) to being measured objectively (heart rate, time of rest periods, watts, etc.). What matters most about intensity is that if you’re someone who exercises regularly expecting some sort of result, you need to have an objective measure of intensity. Whether it’s for health reasons, aesthetics, or performance, at some point you have to push beyond the “comfort zone”, a term used to describe where most find solace in their exercise routine. The issue with “comfort zones” is that nothing happens there. The individual who exercises by just going through the motions falls into this category. Some would say something is better than nothing and while that is only mildly true, most who exercise do have a goal or agenda that will yield something. Going through the motions and not pushing a little more effort is going to yield zero to minimal results. So how much do you push and when do you do it? First, establish a goal. Why do you exercise? Next, establish what it is you wish to accomplish through exercise. Be leaner? Decrease blood pressure? Be stronger? Run faster? Third, determine that your exercise needs are met by the exercises you choose to engage. Once you have established all three, then you can look at how to push and increase your intensity. Maybe it’s five more minutes on the treadmill at a slightly higher speed. Or it’s an increase in reps of a strength training exercise. Or it’s a decrease in time with more work being done. There are simply thousands of ways to push it but it has to be objective and measurable. Then you can truly track and see progress.
When Not To Push
Aside from the obvious, exercising through pain is never a good thing. Pain is your body’s signal that something’s not quite right. But I will also warn you that muscle soreness and pain are not one in the same. How do you know? Well, experience will tell you a lot but most times the complete range of motion of a muscle is not completely inhibited. Being sick is also a good sign to not push it as not all sicknesses require a cessation in an exercise program. There are going to be days that are harder than others and that’s to be expected. Listening to your body is a skill that gets perfected over time – knowing when to take it easy or a day off. When you start to think of every little thing to “skip” or “delay” a workout, chances are good that although the intentions were good initially, they quickly became lost and excuse making becomes the norm. Exercise is a stress; a stress that evolves and adapts. If you don’t evolve, the impact, the positive effect of exercise, becomes lost.
Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.