Most people would agree that exercise is a very good thing. Whether we are getting enough or any at all is another topic of discussion. But if exercise is good then more must be better, right? Wrong! Too much of anything is no good and unfortunately there are those who think the same rules don’t apply when it comes to exercise. Perhaps they feel that they can shed those extra pounds by punishing their body repeatedly and for long periods of time. Or that they can defy all the laws of physiology and build tons of muscle and strength in just a few short weeks. The fact is, in the end the body wins out and the reason why is because it is designed to do one thing despite what you try to throw at it at that’s to survive.
The Good and the Bad
Stress is usually a word associated with something negative, but not all stress is bad stress. Stress can be easily defined as any stimulus that challenges the body. For this discussion, exercise is a stress that is more appropriately defined as a eustress, or a stressor that causes a positive, healthful response. But as previously stated, just because it’s good doesn’t mean more must be better. The body can only handle so much stress at a time: physically, emotionally and spiritually, before it begins to break down and revert to survival mechanisms. When that happens, the once positive effects of the eustress become counterproductive, almost reversing the direction of the desired outcome. With too much exercise, often referred to as overtraining, that scenario manifests itself as muscle and/or joint pain, sluggishness, sleepiness, decreased appetite, decreased performance, decreased immunity, and worse, potential injury. While the “no pain, no gain” mentality may be a thing of the past, there is always a popular trend or fad that demonstrates dangerous, yet cool looking exercise as the best way to get fit. As a result of clever marketing, thousands buy into it only to discover in the end it’s not good for the long haul.
What is Too Much!
The human body and its capabilities have long been sought after by man. The Olympics, strongman contests, ultra endurance events, etc. – just when we thought the potential could be reached, it gets surpassed again. Is there a limit? When is enough, enough? That’s not a question the average exerciser is qualified to nor could answer – intelligently, that is. Physical exericse is an activity; an activity that can be performed and manipulated to achieve a desired result. Contrary to popular belief, just saying that you exercise has little to do with are you successfully utilizing it to achieve your goal. Case in point, “I go to the gym about 2-3 days per week but I haven’t seen any results.” The next statement usually goes something like this: ‘I’m going to double up my workouts, may be do a few two-a-days like I did back in high school, and then I’m going to go everyday for a few weeks. That should get me back into shape.” Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
The net result? An even more frustrated exerciser who is now no closer to the desired goal because they didn’t really examine the true problems that exist and perhaps are now dealing with the negative effects sidelining them from exercising at all. The simple notion of just doing more exercise, harder will yield almost the same result of doing no exercise at all – NOTHING!
Time to Drop the Hammer
General George Patton said it best. “A good plan, violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.” When you understand the value and benefit of exercise, not just simply doing it to do it, you will appreciate and respect the power that smart exercising can have. This includes planning your workouts; building in proper progressions (crawl before you can walk); taking care of the little things such as muscle tightness and joint mobility; addressing the “intangibles” such as diet and rest. It will lead to greater success and your true potential can be realized. In athletics, professional are called professionals because they have developed the proper progression and manipulation of the variables they can control to a level that puts them above the rest. When you understand that you also have that same potential, you too will be the best that you can be.
Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better