- Stagnate workout durations to prevent overtraining and shock your body: Monday-90 minutes, Tuesday-45 minutes, Wednesday-60 minutes, Thursday-30, Friday-90 minutes, Saturday-45 minutes, Sunday-Recovery
- Switch up exercises– I never am doing the same exercise, be it cardio, lifting, toning, squatting, for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. I move from one exercise to the next so that my body is constantly adjusting to keep up with me!! The more often it has to adjust, the harder it has to work.
- Let your muscles recover. Target one to two muscle groups per workout session and allow several days of recovery inbetween. I workout my biceps, triceps, shoulders, chest, and back 1 day/week, my abs 3-4 days/week, and my lower body 2 days/week. Whatever your goals are-to tone, build muscle, loss weight, get it better shape, etc.- your muscles need rest in order to change!
- Let your body recover!!! One thing that most health/fitness fanatics struggle with is taking days off. However, taking a day off to let your body rest is crucial to muscle development and strength, preventing over training and injury, and burning out.
I’m not going to lie, I am one of the rare breed of people who hears their alarm and jumps out of bed. However, I do have those days when faced with another hour of sleep or the treadmill, all I want to do is roll back over. Considering I prefer am workouts, there are some mornings every muscle on my body aches and I ask myself how do you know when you’re too sore, tired, and drained to workout? And when do you know to be suck it up, lace up, and go? So I did some research.
Unless your muscles are throbbing or you completed a long, strenuous physical activity in day before, man up. Being sore is part of exercising and is a sign that the body is adapting and changing, which for many of us is the motivating factor behind the hours we slave in the gym. Studies indicate that moderate exercise actually aids in recovery by increasing blood flow, releasing endorphins which eases pain, and keeps us on track!!
I have always advocated rest days to friends and now clients. However, I find myself struggling to take them myself. I think this is partly due to the fact that exercise is my anti-anxiety drug and therapy session. To put it bluntly, it keeps me sane. I am always doing ten things at once and on days that I don’t exercise, I find myself anxious and overwhelmed. HOWEVER, it is important to know your body and to be able to determine when enough is enough. Self-discipline and self-will won’t help you when overtraining leads to injury. On rest days, take a walk or bike ride. Get those muscles warm and keep moving!!!
Happy Monday!! Have a happy, healthy week!!
As a former cardio queen myself, I cannot speak enough about all of the benefits of aerobic exercise:
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Improved blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Improved heart function
- Reduced risk of osteoporosis
- Improved muscle mass
(IDEA Health and Fitness Association)
However, most individuals fail to comprehend is how much is too little or too much! People tend fall into those two categories (overwhelmingly the first). None the less, I think it is important to be informed of the dangers of excessive cardiovascular exercise
So what’s too little aerobic activity?
Experts claim that an individual must perform cardiovascular exercise for at least twenty minutes in order to increase heart rate enough to promote fat loss and muscle growth. Studies indicate that interval training inhibits the most muscle growth, while running promotes the most fatloss.
I advise switching up cardio for maximal caloric burn and muscle growth. When your body gets used to the same activities, they no longer become challenging and thus, require less effort. The harder your body has to work, the more calories you burn, and the greater physiological adaption!! (See blog: High Intensity Interval Training)
When does cardiovascular exercise become impair health and weight-loss goals?
Last semester I took an Exercise and Nutrition course where I learned first off the dangers of overtraining–including muscle fatigue, altered hormonal functioning, increased risk for injury, lowered psychological health –“burn-out,” insomnia, irritability, overall decreased performance, and impaired immune function.
If that was not enough to change my cardio habits this was:
Excessive cardio over time causes heart damage and inhibits weight loss goals by slowing the metabolism.
Two years ago, The New York Times published an article discussing a study British scientists conducted comparing hearts of male marathon runners to those of non-endurance athletes. They discovered that half of the lifelong endurance runners (age 50-67) had a condition known as fibrosis. However, the hearts of the non-endurance athletes as well as the younger marathon runners (below age 50) did not. “Fibrosis, if it becomes severe, can lead to stiffening or thickening of portions of the heart, which can contribute to irregular heart function and, eventually, heart failure. (Reynolds, The New York Times)”
Canadian and Spanish scientists have also performed similar studies on rats, mimicking excessive training conditions. After a month trial (equivalent to 10 yrs in humans), the scientists found themselves comparing originally healthy hearts to those with symptoms of fibrosis. However, after eight weeks (~7 years) without running, the animals hearts returned back to normal.
Although most people do not spend nearly as long in their sneakers as marathon runners, studies indicate that doing more than 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise begins to produce diminishing results (The Mayo Clinic, 2012). All the benefits of aerobic activity are reached within an hour.
Why the slowed metabolism??
Evolution. Just like when we starve ourselves, our bodies react to excessive energy loss by reducing metabolic functioning. We need energy to perform many bodily functions and if we are exerting to much of it, our bodies assume we may not refuel enough. At the same time many individuals over-compensate caloric needs, assuming they burned more calories than they actually did and thus, over-eating. These two factors combined inhibit weight-loss and often cause the opposite, weight-gain.
Stick to 30-60 minutes of aerobic activity 5-6 days a week and don’t forget to weight train!!! Remember your body needs rest in order for your muscles to repair. I still struggle with this. My overachiever personality doesn’t know how to “rest,” but as I have learned along my fitness journey, always always listen to your body.
references: nasm.org, wedmd.com, The Mayo Clinic, The New York Times, Dr. William Lunn SCSU
First of all let me reiterate how much I HATE scales. As an aspiring dietitian, I am constantly stressing that they are never a true evaluation of a persons health. Remember weight is just a number! It comes as a shock to most individuals along their health/fitness journeys, when the number on the scale does not reflect the image they see in the mirror or the way their clothes fit. How is it possible that we can weigh MORE, but wear clothes two sizes SMALLER?
The answer is that as we set fitness goals and achieve them, we are often replacing fat with muscle, and although the two weigh the SAME, their densities differ significantly. A five foot five 25-year-old female may weigh 130 pounds and appear leaner than she did at 125 pounds, simply because she gained lean muscle and reduced her body fat.
As a female, one of the most frustrating things I hear from many young women is that they don’t weight train because they will gain muscle and look bulky. Not only does muscle improve body composition, but the more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn throughout the day. In other words, muscle gain boosts your metabolism, allowing you to consume more.
I am a cardio queen, but I weight train 5 days a week because I have seen major body composition improvements, I can eat more, and I experience psychological benefits as well (great confidence boost!!). If you have limited time to spend at the gym, I would suggest cutting your cardio short by at least 15 minutes and slowly adding some weight training. Don’t be shy to ask someone to show you how to do something. I have had several people come to me for advice and I NEVER MIND! Most of the time people are flattered and more than willing to help. If this makes you embarrassed, you can often watch videos online and start out at home or request a trainer at your gym. In a month, I promise you won’t regret it!