I just finished speaking with my brother on the phone. He’s a triathlete, a marathon runner, and an avid racket ball player. He’ll often get up at five AM to squeeze in a six mile run before work, and frequently trains at some sport or another for three to four hours on weekends, or does the Body Beast workout. So I was shocked to hear that he was planning on doing nothing for the next month, and had given up on participating in the next marathon he had wanted to compete in. Why I asked him what had happened, he explained that he’d torn the muscle in his chest, had been forced to take a steroid shot and was only now regaining full movement. Yikes. But therein lies a lesson for us all: sometimes less is more, and in today’s post I plan to show you why.
Think of exercise as a tornado, and our muscles are the buildings in a small town. Each time you work out, a tornado descends upon the homes, and tears them apart. Then, while you sleep, all the workers come out and rebuild the homes, but build them back better and stronger. Then you workout again, pushing yourself even harder, and once more the workers come back out and rebuild. The harder you workout, the stronger your muscles become, up to a point, with a recovery drink being the cement that helps put everything back together.
Over training is what happens when you don’t give your body enough time to heal. It’s as if the tornado were hitting the town twice each day, demolishing everything so thoroughly that the workers never get around to fixing things up before the next tornado hits. The result? Fatigue, lethargy, a lack of growth, and a terrible propensity to injury. When you over train, you leave yourself wide open to hurting something. In fact, if you go to the gym and see tough looking guys hauling up weights with their knees all banded up and their elbows strapped and pain on their faces? They’re clearly over training, in pain, and getting less results.
That’s why you shouldn’t push too hard. What is your personal limit? Only trial and error can tell. But watch your energy level, and see how much you are progressing. Are you sleeping well? Are you feeling good? Or are you having trouble sleeping, trouble waking, and lacking motivation to hit the gym? If that’s the case, scale down the amount of training your doing, give yourself a light week or even two to bounce back, and then see how you feel when you return to the gym. Odds are, it will do you a world of good.
Image courtesy of Rennett Stowe