How much do you exercise? How long do you do it for? Is it an hour a day or more? Do you work out 6 or maybe even 7 days a week? Most importantly though, do you think you can sustain your current exercise routine for the rest of your life?
Are You Exercising Too Much?
Believe it or not, there is a such thing as too much exercise. The general population isn’t doing enough physical activity to be healthy and fit, but for people who are trying to lose weight, they tend to overdo it, especially at the beginning. They might exercise a lot because they saw someone do it on TV, or because they think they have to in order to lose weight. Whatever the reason, all that exercise usually ends in physical and mental burnout.
Exercise Quality, Not Quantity
Don’t get me wrong, you do need to be active. I try to get in some form of physical activity 7 days a week. However, 4 of those days are leisure activity like walking, biking, or hiking. I can get by taking it easy on those 4 days of the week because the other 3 are very intense workouts. They include a combination of strength training and HIIT cardio. My exercise program has everything I need to build and maintain muscle, and improve my cardiovascular system. Most importantly though, it gives me ample time to rest and recover.
This recovery time is an oft-forgotten concept of fitness. You need to give yourself enough time between your workouts to fully recover both physically and mentally. It’s the mental part that people usually don’t recover from, which eventually leads to emotional burnout.
How Long Can You Continue Your Current Workout Plan?
Stop and think about your exercise program. Whatever it is you’re doing for exercise right now, do you think you can still be doing it 6 months from now, 1 year, or 5 years from now? Many of you get so motivated (too motivated) to lose weight that you put the afterburners on and think burn baby burn.
It’s going to burn alright – burn your emotional health, central nervous system, and muscles right into the ground. You’ll end up with overuse injuries and your motivation will turn to dreading your next workout until you just don’t want to do it anymore. What happens next? You end up reverting back to your old lifestyle.
Pick a Routine You Can Stick with For the Long Haul
There will be times when you can push the intensity and workloads harder for periods of time, and there are very sport-specific training programs which require that. However, for the majority of people that just want to be healthy, fit, and leaner than the average person, the key is finding consistency in your workout program, and that means finding something you can handle long term, being patient, and letting the fat come off over time. The longer you can stick to your current exercise program, the more successful you will be. Overexercising is not going to get you to your goals any faster.
Find Your Exercise Capacity By Taking Small Steps
Most personal trainers will throw you on their standard exercise program of strength training 3 days a week, and cardio 3 days a week. Hey, this is great – if you can handle it. For many people starting out, it will quickly burn them out. Instead, I like newcomers to focus on their nutrition first and start walking (some can handle more than walking, individual assessment is key). Everyone can walk. Everyone can handle small dietary changes and a little more walking activity.
Then, you try increasing the pace of your walk or add a little distance, or both. Then you add in a single strength training day every week. What you’ll soon find is that you want more. You see the difference the added activity does for your body, mind, and confidence, so you slowly add in new and more intense exercise days. Exercise becomes a positive association with fitness, and you also begin to see the value in its added health benefits.
The point is, don’t start exercising at 100mph. Don’t run before you can walk. Find your exercise intensity and frequency that you can live with forever. A frequency and intensity that’s going to make you look forward to your workouts. If you dread your workouts, you will never stick with it, and adherence to your program is priority number one. Do what is necessary for you to stay excited about your program, and the results will never stop showing.