Is there such a thing as too many different or too much exercise?
One of my fitness friends is an exercise FREAK. I mean it in a good way. She takes all kinds of group fitness classes with weights, aerobic and high intensity training. She runs. She does triathlons. She line dances. It seems she doesn’t sit still for long. On one of her slow days she posed the question to me, “Am I hurting myself by doing too many different activities?” Heck no!
Exercising in different ways is what we in the business call “cross training”. It’s even what we recommend. As in life, too much of a good thing can be bad. Think sugar, wine, money (I haven’t experienced that last one). You need to change up your routine because over-repetition can over-stress your joints, bones, muscles and lead to injury. Breaking it up by working your body in different ways can make you stronger and well rounded.
Elite athletes cross train to enhance their performance. A runner or swimmer will also train with weights to build muscle. Stronger muscles will allow them to run or swim faster or longer. Stronger muscles can also prevent injury. Adding Yoga or Pilates can contribute to building strength plus flexibility. This can also prevent injury.
My friend should not be worried about doing too many varied activities but worried about doing too much activity all together. This seems more likely especially since she is using so many muscles in different ways. It might be harder for her to realize she has overdone it because her muscle fatigue is always changing. If she’s feeling run down it could easily be shrugged off onto the effects of a new exercise.
Another caution for my friend might be too many things that are similar. If she’s lifting weights one day and then doing body weight exercises like push-ups and pull-ups the next day she has not given the same muscles a chance to recuperate. Instead it might be better to weight train one day and do a cardio exercise the next.
How do you know if you’ve over-trained with your exercise?
-Drained feeling or lack of energy. A good exercise regimen should give greater energy.
-Prolonged pain in joints and muscles. Soreness from a new workout shouldn’t last more than a few days.
-General aches and pains. Not the same as soreness from a new activity.
-Decrease in performance. It’s taking you longer to run a mile or you can no longer do the full minute drill in your exercise class.
-Increased injuries. This can be caused by over-stressing a muscle or joint repeatedly.
-Insomnia. Again, a good exercise regimen should help you sleep better.
-Loss of motivation. Your body is telling you to rest. You also might be irritable.
If you want to geek out and get scientific about it try doing the Orthostatic Heart Rate Test. If you can, get a baseline first. If not, you can still do the test and see if your orthostatic rate is in the high range.
-Before getting out of bed measure your heart beats per minute (BPM). Count your heartbeats for 60 seconds or count for 10 seconds and multiply by six.
-Stand up and after 15 seconds and take your heart BPM again.
-Record the laying down rate, the standing rate and the difference, which is the orthostatic rate.
For a baseline do this for a week.
A healthy athletic person might have an orthostatic rate around 10-15 BPM while an ill or over-trained person will have an orthostatic rate 10 or so BPM higher than that. An orthostatic rate close to zero might also be of concern as your body is working hard to maintain a level heart rate.
This however is just one tool in trying to determine if you’re over trained and it’s not a scientifically proven method to diagnose the problem. In fact diagnosing over-training is difficult because every body is different.
It’s best to just avoid over-training. Rest should be built into your exercise regimen especially if you work out hard. When you do your muscles tear down and rebuild when you rest. That means you need to take days off and get plenty of sleep at night. Good nutrition is also a good idea. If you’re doing a lot of activity, like my friend, slowing it down a day or two with yoga or complete stretching can also help keep the body going strong. Speak to your doctor before beginning or changing any exercise program.
Orthostatic Heart Rate Test: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/hrtest.htm
Overtraining Syndrome: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3435910/