“Do you know how many times I have trained this week?!” If I had a bitcoin for every time I overheard someone throwing that question around, I’d be rolling in the cryptos right now. Believe it or not, slaying a workout every day, or in some cases 2-3 times a day, is going to get you about as close to achieving your body goals as sitting on the sofa watching Love Island with a Domino’s and a bag of Percy Pigs. In fact, the latter doesn’t sound like such a bad idea…
Now I’m not suggesting that a winter feasting on Pizza & Pigs will get you coming-in-hot for summer months, but there is a lot to be said for proper rest and active recovery in the way your body deserves.
Why are we training so much?
Without doubt there’s a real addiction to the endorphin rush of your favourite workout and that “legal high” sensation has us all foaming at the mouth for more “fitfam” fun. Combine that regular euphoria with the high-octane lifestyle of your career, dining and drinking all the drinks, one eventually finds themselves on autopilot crawling into the 6:30AM Spin, and out of 8PM HIIT, the very same day. Even when the DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is strong, you power through in the hope that just 50 more burpees and a meal replacement shake the following morning will wash your sins away.
What’s the right amount of exercise per week?
This is certainly not a one size fits all solution but there is a prevailing fact; common sense.
Get in 3-4 solid 45 minute – 1 hour workouts a week, something that not only gets your heart-rate up but challenges you effectively with the right kind of movement and technique.
Most importantly you need to enjoy these workouts, spend time figuring out what floats-your-boat. Are you a Spin-Kween or a HIIT Hustler? Is intense Reformer Pilates your thing or are you happiest upping your running game? Whether it’s combat class or pulsing at the barre, take time to understand your body. What does it respond well to? Whatever that is, commit and do it really well.
If you’ve completed your favourite workouts effectively and with proper technique, you should have the perfect DOMS. That love-hate ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness’ like no other in all the right places. You shouldn’t be in agony or incapable of sitting on the toilet seat without the assistance of your left hand every time you workout, only in the event of undertaking a new form of exercise or if it was a particularly challenging session.
This sensation is simply your muscular recovery process over the course of 1-2 days in gaining strength and tonicity. Aside from the guilty pleasure of DOMS, your exercise regime should never result in pain through injury. If you’re carrying injuries due to your weekly workout routine, you need to dig deep and make some serious changes to your status quo.
Other than the more intense workouts and just as high up on your priority list, is active recovery and rest. Active recovery should be steady and controlled. Try to slide 1 or 2 sessions in per week, bringing your total number of weekly workouts to a maximum of 4/5. Forget 7 days of solid HIIT, spin or pounding the tarmac for endless hours, alternate your days with Yin Yoga, dedicated stretching or simply going for a good old walk somewhere green. Open your lungs to fresh air, not just studio air and restore a little calm, your mind and body will thank you for it when you hit up your next savage session.
Respect the rest, it’s everything. Sleep deprivation leads to fatigue, injury and poor mental wellbeing, so make sure your mind-game is in check by asking yourself if what you’re about to embark on makes you feel good? If the answer is no, take a rain check and focus your attention on something that could benefit you more in that particular moment.
What are the effects of overtraining?
Without proper rest and with the constant desire to hit the gym Arnie-style as many times per week as possible, the body constantly runs on adrenaline, which can often conceal some major red flags of over-training. The release of cortisol in the body due to fatigue has several side effects including depression, anxiety, decreased performance and insomnia.
Eventually after sustained periods of over-exercising the body also begins to suffer from a weakened immune system and fat gain, which is the result of the body’s response to prolonged stress by elevating levels of stress hormones (cortisol), leading to increased fat storage. The scales may show you’ve shed a few pounds but this is likely due to a decrease in muscle mass, and as a result of too much exercise, your body is now much less efficient at burning fat.
The longer term side effects associated with increased fat storage in the body include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and a variety of other debilitating conditions.
It’s time to overhaul weekly workout schedules. Believe me, having worked in the fitness industry for 10 years nothing gives me more satisfaction than being surrounded by like-minded people in the spin studio, waving our towels in the air (like we just don’t care) and my world became colourful because of that very feeling. But there are so many more layers to life than drowning in pools of your own sweat every early morning and late evening.
Paint your week with variety, take the stairs, give it all when you need to and make every rep count, then sit back and reap the rewards wearing something other than activewear, doing something other than post-workout-shake boomerangs. Live a little, you’ll see more results than you could have ever thought possible.