Are you working out too much?

December 10, 2017

Today's message should really be considered part 2 of last week's blog on Tabata training so why don't you just review it right now? (Don't worry, I'll still be here when you get back)

All done? (That was quick…I guess I write short blogs!)

So let's cut right to the chase. We all know that exercise has so many documented benefits it’s almost impossible to list then all. But if you're dealing with the following symptoms it's a sure bet you're exercising either too often, too hard, or both:

1. You suddenly have an INcreased resting heart rate and blood pressure 

2. You get sick a lot (or you at least seem to be getting sick a lot more often lately) 

3. Your performance in the gym (or at whatever sport you're training for) seems to headed the wrong direction 

4. You're getting injured more often (or you have injuries that just keep hangin' around) 

5. You're suddenly having trouble either falling or staying asleep 

6. You have a shorter fuse (or you simply feel irritated more often or at strange moments)

7. You feel tired all the time or maybe you're not thinking as clearly as usual or you're simply clumsier than you used to be

All of the previous symptoms are indicative of something called Over-training Syndrome but I won't go into too many details here…check out my friend Joe Cannon's excellent blog for lots more info.

So rather than focusing on the condition itself, let's spend a bit of time considering some of the reasons why lots of people overtrain. 

Sometimes people become super-obsessed with a goal because they're either super-competitive with others or with themselves. Here's a sidebar that will probably make most of you giggle (although at the time it wasn't a bit funny!) In my early forties I competed in A LOT of karate tournaments (in 2008 I even took 1st place in a national tournament.) So one day when I was cross training extra hard in preparation for the next event I was so "out of it" at the gym by the end of an extra long workout I tripped over my own feet, started to fall, put my arm up to keep from breaking my nose on the way down, and separated my shoulder. In hindsight I can see now I was actually competing with myself a lot harder than anyone/thing else (and not always in a particularly fair or kind manner…hmmmmm.)

And sometimes people have such a negative self-image they become completely committed to the completely impossible goal of looking like an airbrushed model on the cover of Shape magazine. Truth be told when I began exercising at age 35 for the first time in my life, my self-image was pretty much in the toilet…although on the outside I simply looked like someone who was "taking good care of herself," on the inside I definitely fell into this particular category!

And here's another surprisingly common reason why many people overtrain. Exercise Bulimia is a clinical term describing a behavior pattern in which someone practically crucifies themself with exercise in order to make up for poor food choices…you'd probably be shocked to know how many clients I've worked with over the years who were surprisingly upfront about engaging in this behavior on a regular basis (OK I've probably fallen into that category too at times.)

The bottom line is that we live in a culture which tends to focus on consumption (not just eating but buying stuff too) as an answer to most problems…combine that with the common use of various self-flagellant behaviors including using brutal exercise as a good way to make up for low self-esteem or poor food choices and that really suggests a lot about why we behave the way we do (and not just in the gym but in life as well.)

Seriously this whole subject could probably take up 2-3 more blogs but suffice it to say our cultural quirks create LOTS of arguments for the value of practicing T'ai Chi Chih on a regular basis!

But let's not go there just yet.  Instead let's review a bit of exercise physiology. In order to build muscle one should first work the muscle very hard and then rest because the actual growth spurt (or "muscular hypertrophy") occurs during the resting phase. So when someone is exercising either too often or too hard (or both), they're basically undermining their muscle-building goal.



And remember that most people in this country lead relatively sedentary lives outside of the gym. So instead of cutting your sleep short to work out too long or too often before or after the office (where you sit at a desk all day),  you might be much better off doing a shorter workout followed by a Tabata (which you know all about thanks to last week's blog!) plus adding various other activities into your day. After all the Tao (or "Yin Yang" as many people refer to it) is a terrific reminder that ANYTHING if taken to an extreme becomes it's opposite so for most people the path towards optimum health includes leading a more active lifestyle in general rather than "killing it" in the gym for a couple hours every day.

So how about taking the stairs whenever possible, or picking the farthest parking spot, or getting & walking a dog, or practicing T'ai Chi Chih (I'm sure you figured we'd get there eventually, right?)

I like to think of T'ai Chi Chih as the anti-exercise although it provides A LOT of the same physical benefits as exercise including weight loss, regulation of blood pressure, and sometimes even enhanced sports performance. (Pssssssssst: it also helps improve every single symptom of Over-Training Syndrome!!!)

Where it differs from exercise, however, are some of the psychological benefits including an enhanced ability to simply let things go.

For instance even though I'd been exercising and eating right for many years before I stumbled upon T'ai Chi Chih (only this time I didn’t separate my shoulder LOL), regular T'ai Chi Chih practice has literally been THE game-changer in helping me let go of:

  • Obsessive consumption (of various kinds)
  • Competitiveness (both with myself and others)
  • Criticism (both of myself and others)

IMHO everybody, especially folks who exercise, could benefit from practicing T'ai Chi Chih on a regular basis. Plus it's EASY, you can do it anywhere, and I've got a couple of FREE events coming up…doesn't that sound like the best deal you've heard in a long time? So click here for info on upcoming workshops and classes. Still have questions? Click here to watch a couple of short videos and all will become clear.

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