Fitness vs Over Training
by Phil Cameron
Your body isn’t getting any younger. That’s a good thing because if you weren’t getting any older you would have big problems. However nature and gravity are working to pull you back into the ground so you can push up the daisies. It’s a constant battle between you surviving and nature recycling you. The best way to fight nature is to stay healthy and strong. Strength comes from training, either from your activities of daily living that require physical strength that you use regularly, or from working out and training to be stronger.
Everyone knows that it is important to workout. We see all the latest and greatest workout equipment, 10-minute abs videos and thigh master commercials telling us that being in shape is easy and waiting in a box for you to buy. The truth is fitness takes discipline, a constant regiment of time devoted to moving your body, in a challenging uncomfortable way to achieve an adapted body that was stronger than the day before. Or said simply doing what you don’t want to do now so you can do what you want to do later.
I know I just short circuited your limbic system (your lizard brain) by telling you that working out has to be uncomfortable which will put a serious damper on compliance, but I will tell you if you stick to it, working out and enduring the discomfort of exercise will make you feel amazing. At least it will feel amazing as long as you don’t over train and injure your body.
There is a fine line between fitness and over training and it’s not a clear line that is easy to see. When I talk about fitness I am talking about your physical body working with your physiology to produce a desired outcome of purposeful work to enhance your muscle size and your cardiovascular system to deliver nutrients and oxygen to cells to make more energy to do more work. Or simply put making you harder to kill. However working out uses up many of the body’s resources that must be replenished to restore the body to optimal function. The harder and longer you workout the more your body uses up its stores of reserved energy and the more you must do to replenish your body. If you try and workout again to soon after a hard workout you are actually doing more harm than good to your body and are risking injury and physiological damage.
There is a classic equation in physiology called the Hans Selye stress curve that shows how the body responds to stress. At first the body weakens below its original state before the stress but then adapts to be able to handle more stress after the recovery. It also shows that if the body is not fully recovered before another stress (workout) happens that the body will be weaker and continue to weaken in a negative downward progression with each continued stress before recovery. Therefore more workouts don’t actually make you stronger and more fit, more workouts at the right time after your recovery from the last workout make you more fit.
Just to be clear recovery doesn’t mean sitting on the couch watching TV and eating potato chips. I’m talking about doing active recovery to enhance your body, and speed recovery time. Every time you workout your muscles and body create waste products like lactic acid and carbon dioxide that need to be cleared by your liver, lungs and kidneys. Your organs however never get a rest day. They have to work every day of your life to keep you healthy. Remembering to help your organs clear the waste products by eating healthy foods including green leafy vegetables is step one. You also need to replenish your energy supplies, which come from fats and carbohydrates. Good fats should be consumed regularly, which include animal fats like butter and fat from grass fed or wild animals, and plant fats like nuts, coconuts, olive oil and avocado’s are best. Always avoid trans fats, which are a poison to the body. Also avoid canola or vegetable oil, which are inflammatory in our body increasing arachadonic acid that increases pain. Complex carbohydrates like sweet potato’s, squash, brown rice and quinoa are also good sources of energy. Don’t forget to eat good protein also as protein is the building blocks for your muscles.
Measuring your level of fitness is how you know you are not over training. There are many tools that are helpful like a heart rate monitor that can be used to give you real time feed back of how your body is performing during your workout. The simplest way to know if you are not overtraining is to make sure that your body is improving from its last workout. Your runs should be getting faster, you should be lifting heavier weights you should be able to workout for a longer period of time without getting fatigued. If any of those are no longer happening than its time to increase your active recovery between workouts.
Walk instead of run working on keeping your heart rate and breathing balanced, do yoga working on flexibility, spend more time on the foam roller, dial in your post workout food intake, drink more water, and get better sleep. If you are still having trouble with recovery it could be a hormonal imbalance like adrenal fatigue and you should consult a physician knowledgeable about measuring and treating adrenal fatigue to help you find your hormonal balance.
You only have one body and putting your health on the back burner because you are to busy to deal with it or work on making it healthier only makes it worse. If your not growing you’re dying. It’s a simple fact of nature. Flowers remind us of this fact and show us how quickly life can change. Of course we are all on a one-way path for the pine box, but we want to live as healthy and stay as strong as we can for as long as we can. Many scientific studies show us how weight training and working out will benefit us all throughout our life and even as we get older we can still see many improvements in our health and athletic performance if we train appropriately. Dr. Jack Lalanne who graduated from Oakland Chiropractic College but used his education to promote health instead of going into private practice worked out for two hours everyday until he passed away at age 96 from pneumonia. It just goes to show that you can be strong all your life if you work at it. Make fitness a part of your life and avoid over training and you will live a healthy, natural, and optimal life.