I had a great discussion with my LBD group this month about over-exercising.
Often times if we have a body composition goal, in addition to keeping our nutrition in check, we assume more exercise is better. More means we will reach our goals faster.
We need to keep in mind that exercising in any form is a stressor on our bodies. That means that our body undergoes physiological changes in order to adapt to the stressor. Typically exercise is a good stressor that our body adapts to and creates the changes we are looking for (strength, performance, body composition…).
If our training load is too much; if we increase our training frequency too fast; if we don’t allow our body adequate rest and recovery our body stops being able to keep up with the stress demand. Physiologically our body stops being able to adapt to the stress. This leads to exercise being a negative stressor that can lead to negative impacts such as:
decrease performance or strength
increased muscle soreness due to prolonged inflammation
potential weight gain (through water retention and preservation of adipose/fat tissue)
So what does over-exercising look like? This will differ for every person. It depends on where you started, potentially how fast you progressed, and how intense your exercise is.
However, I would say if you are strength training 3 days a week, going to a circuit style class (spin, Orange Theory, F45..) 1-2 times per week, going for a run once a week, and adding in a yoga, barre, or pilates class that is likely too much training stress and not enough recovery.
How do you know if you are doing too much? Take a look at your goals. If you have physique goals (body fat loss, muscle gain), strength goals, endurance goals and you are finding that your results or progression has stalled over a period of time (and perhaps are finding you can check off a few of those signs and symptoms above) then you need to take a good look at how much you exercise or train per week, and consider scaling back to see how your body responds. It may take some trial and error to find your sweet spot of frequency, but it is so important to take stock and adjust accordingly.
My motto is QUALITY OVER QUANTITY.
But it wasn’t always this. I too was an over exerciser. I used to be of the mindset that I had to workout 5-7 days (both strength and cardio) a week to see results. However, that usually left me feeling too tired to get good effective workouts in on all of those days, and I also found it hard to progressively overload to reach my strength goals. It was too much exercise stress on my body. Once I started to decrease my frequency and increase my effort I noticed how well my body responded from both a strength perspective and a composition perspective. Win-Win!
Find the sweet spot for you…but keep in mind you don't need to spend a 'certain' amount of time to ensure you have a good workout. You don't need to do 15 different exercises to get a good workout. You don't need to have muscle soreness after every workout. You don’t have to leave your workout a sweaty mess. You don't need to spend 90 minutes watching every calorie burned on your Apple watch or Fitbit!
What you need to do is have a plan & purpose for each and every workout. Create exercise stress in smaller amounts with adequate REST & RECOVERY, this will allow your body to adapt and prepare itself for upcoming exercise stress.