Today I want to talk to you about balance in physical training. I’m not referring to balance exercises, like standing on one foot, but rather about balancing your exercise. The big picture.
You see, there is a continuum you need to be aware of: Imagine a straight line running from left to right. Divide it in three equal sections.
The middle section represents balanced exercise: the Goldilocks “juuuust right” amount that improves your fitness, health and feelings of well-being.
The section on the left represents undertraining, which can range from no physical activity at all, to inconsistent activity (weekend warriors who don’t do anything else, e.g.), to regular exercise that is not working well because it is not intense enough. Goldilocks would call the undertraining side “too soft”. Most of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Undertraining can lead to many chronic diseases over time.
Now, on the right side is the overtraining section. This phenomenon is not very well understood or talked about in our culture, in the land of if-a-little-is-good-then-a-lot-must-be-better. And yes, Goldilocks would call it the “too hard” side of training.
The funny thing is, we often don’t realize it is too hard until it is too late and our health and well-being has suffered. When you overtrain, you are upsetting equilibrium in your system. It’s a cumulative effect and it can be just as detrimental as undertraining.
Sometimes we see the symptoms and we think that they mean we aren’t exercising enough, so we workout even harder to try to resolve them. It’s tricky, because some of the symptoms of overtraining can be the same as undertraining. And our ego (and friends!) may be telling us we are looking so good now and are to be commended for all our hard work.
But if you are crossing the line from balanced training to overtraining you are not doing yourself any favors. A partial list of problems from overtraining includes: nervous system imbalance (stress, depression, inability to relax), insomnia, poor memory, joint degeneration, increased resting heart rate, hot flashes, fatigue, getting sick a lot.
You can even have problems losing weight if you are overtraining, because your hormones get out of whack (that’s the technical term:)). It can take anywhere from weeks to years to resolve issues that result from overtraining.
Okay, so here’s where I tell you what is the right amount of exercise so you can be balanced. Ready? The answer is….
It depends. On a lot of different things.
Every individual is unique. Besides the volume of exercise you are doing, other factors like diet and what’s going on with the family and in your social network affects you. If you have a lot of stress in your life, too much training can take you over the edge (while just the right amount can be part of the solution). Even the season of the year may make a difference.
I can say that what is right for your best friend is probably not right for you. I can also say that what is “juuuust right” for you today will probably need to change in a few months as your personal situation changes.
Now my intent is not to frustrate you. My intent is to help you understand why it is so important to stay aware of your needs and responses on all levels — physical, mental, emotional. Because I have done the overtraining thing. (I’m still unraveling all the negative impact it’s had.) And I have done the undertraining thing.
And I am finally realizing that it will be a constant dance of awareness and adjustment for the rest of my life. And I’m super-psyched to dance! I’m taking it all as a loving message from the universe to live aware.
So, Goldilocks, here are just a few ways you can live aware and balance your training needs:
- Keep a daily log of how much you are exercising and how you are feeling (general well-being).
- Enlist the services of a qualified personal trainer or wellness coach who will help you assess where you are at.
- Attend a workshop or event that gives you the time and the tools to reflect on your current state of well-being.
If you want some help, I can definitely be of service in those second and third areas. 😉