Over training. The idea that the weekend warrior somehow isn’t losing weight because he or she is training too hard seems to be all the rage in the magazines and online articles these days. Trouble is I’m not buying it. I’m calling bullshit.
This is one I’ve kind of been putting off for a while because I wasn’t sure just how relevant it might be to you guys, but it’s now something I need to get off my chest as I can see it spreading and becoming detrimental to society.
Yes, I believe over training exists. And yes, I believe it can occur in people who are not professional or Olympic athletes which is where you might expect it to pop up more frequently. I recall working with a mother and her 17 year old daughter back when I worked at Life Time Fitness. This girl had some pretty serious issues going on and not only from a diet standpoint (while not officially diagnosed, she was anorexic). I worked briefly with her near the end of my time there, so I didn’t get much of a chance to intervene. And looking back that’s maybe a good thing because I was a noob who had literally just obtained my RD less than 6 months prior and didn’t really have any business dealing with the issues she had. If she were to come to me today I’d refer her right on to a more qualified RD who specializes in eating disorders.
Anyways, it wasn’t so much that she was limiting her food (which was evident in food logs assuming she was being honest, which… let’s be real… she probably wasn’t), but rather she exercised for hours and hours on end. I’ll never forget her mom explaining to me that she would slap on her Garmin and literally run circles around the house. This sounds odd enough to begin with, right? But here’s the kicker. She would do this for up to 17 or more miles at a time!!!! This type of anorexia is classified under the “binge/purge” title. The other is just extreme limiting of calories and nutrition overall. Either way I’ve always hoped she eventually got the help she needed.
But back to this idea that those of us who are exercising hard for a few or even most days of the week and are inducing over training is down right silly. That’s called being healthy and normal. Although as I write this I realize that it, unfortunately, isn’t normal. Most people don’t exercise consistently or at an intensity necessary for optimal health. And that’s sad. And it’s extremely costly too. But that’s another post for another time. The bottom line is if you think you’re not losing weight because you’re body has been working too hard and needs time off, you’re likely kidding yourself and need to look at other factors.
For example, I do have some clients who train hard and work their butts off. There are plenty of people out there who do that and eventually stall in their progress. They usually think the answer is to go even harder. And that can be true up to a point. However, I’ll ask them this question: “You train hardcore, but do you recover hardcore?”. Quite easily the most overlooked aspect of changing the body is the recovery period. And yes, nutrition plays a huge roll in that, but there’s more to the story. Are you constantly stressed and can’t shut down (turn off the sympathetic nervous system) thus having chronically elevated levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body? Are you not getting enough quality sleep at night? Because 7 hours of tossing and turning doesn’t count, brofessor. Is every single one of your training sessions pedal to the metal (very rare, mind you)?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you’ve not planned out this fitness journey very well and that’s why you’re stalling.
So to answer the question in the title, “are you training too hard”, the answer is almost 100% “no” in what I’ve found in the people I work with. Not that that isn’t the case in other populations, but just my observation. I often tell people to forget what your Fitbit, Garmin, or treadmill tell you about your calorie burn because for one, it’s likely way off. And for two, who cares? Don’t eat based on what some machine thinks you might need to take in. Eat based on how you feel. Are you hungry? Ok, go eat something until your satisfied. Then, wait until you’re hungry again and repeat for the next 70 years.
Sorry about that last bit of tangent, but those things just really get under my skin. But again, no, you’re probably not working too hard. Then again, I could be wrong. If you want to set up a time to meet with me however, we can come to a more conclusive answer! Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Til next week!