It’s been almost a month since my last blog post, so as promised here is my follow up blog about finding the right balance when it comes to exercising or training. Whatever your goal is: health, building muscle, fat loss or just wanting to feel and look good, following a smart training program is the way to go.
Many people start exercising for a variety of reasons. Fat loss (lose weight and lean out), aesthetics (want to look good), strength (build strong muscles) and /or health concerns (fight depression, prevent disease,manage stress). All of those reasons are good reasons to want to start exercising. Unfortunately, the general public has no idea how to effectively find the right balance to exercising when trying to achieve the goals above.
Below are the most common mistakes people make when starting to exercise:
Too much Cardio: I have been guilty of this one. Before I became a trainer, and even for a short time afterwards, I too over did it on the cardio, why? Because I loved the way I felt during and after a run or cycle session. Yes, cardio activities such as running, biking, rowing, or any piece of cardio equipment you can think of can help with fat loss, and improve cardio vascular conditioning; however, over doing it on the cardio can have reverse effects for fat loss, wreck female hormones and cause damage to the joints. Hello knee pain! (You with the brace on your knee, umm yeah it might be time to take a break from running, you think?!)
Too much HIIT or Metcons: This also falls under the too much cardio umbrella. More is not better. Unfortunately in today’s world when something becomes popular or new (hmm-hmm CrossFit) we human beings tend to overdue it (guilty). HIIT (high intensity interval training) has a place, however excessive HIIT or Metcons (metabolic conditioning workout) can lead to diminishing returns, injury, and over training (see symptoms of over training here). Over doing cardio, whether it’s running, spinning classes, or doing a lot of HIIT or Metcons will keep you from building muscle, increase your cortisol hormone level, and lead to injury over time.
Yoga/ Pilates : My readers and my friends know that I love mobility. Some have even referred to me as the “mobility queen” however, even this queen knows there is a thing as too much mobility. While there are countless benefits to mobility and stability exercises, doing it 4-7 days a week is a little excessive; not to mention that too much can counter the benefits when trying to put on muscle mass and get stronger. That being said, doing a little mobility in the morning and lite stretching during the day is perfectly okay. No more than 10-15 minutes. I’m referring to yoga or pilates 5-7 days a week or back to back classes. More is not more.
Strength training only: “I pick things up. I put things down.” This is one of my favorite sayings done in my best Arnold voice when I deadlift. I love strength training, it empowers me and not only builds healthy bones and muscles but builds confidence. Just like anything else, too much strength training, or only strength training, is not the way to go either. You should be able to touch your toes and scratch your back.
Guy on the right, need I say more?
Then of course there are so many people who overdo all the above way too often. In other words they over exercise. This in and of itself is a serious disorder! Much like anorexia or bulimia, over-exercising is a disorder in the brain and can sometimes be hard for people to acknowledge that they have this condition. Symptoms include:
- working out through injury or illness;
- finding time to exercise, no matter the expense;
- feeling tremendous guilt or depression if a workout is skipped;
- not taking any rest or recovery days between workouts;
- working out for hours at a time, beyond what can be considered safe or healthy;
- exercising in secret or in unsafe conditions, like during an ice storm or in an unlit area after dark;
- using exercise to balance out or compensate for food;
- skipping activities that one enjoys because they’re not deemed a good enough workout or conversely, doing activities one dislikes because they are considered a good workout;
- defining one’s self-worth based on exercise and fitness ability;
- putting an obsessive amount of focus on how many calories one’s eating and how many they’re burning;
- using exercise as a primary way to cope with negative emotions;
- acting defensively if someone brings up this excessive exercise as a potential problem.
If you think you or someone you know has a problem, you should let an eating disorder expert or specialized psychotherapist assess the condition. The National Eating Disorders Association can help you connect with someone in your area. Self Magazine has a great article about this topic. Including over use of the Fit Bit and food tracking.
So what is the perfect balance of training? Well, is there such thing as a perfect balance? In my opinion…no, but there is a smarter more effective and healthier way to train. Now if you are one of the people who can relate to the above common mistakes, and already feel defensive about what I have wrote in this blog post more than likely you won’t want to read on. In that case go log on to runners world, take another spinning class or hit your Crossfit box for the 6th time this week. If however, you are looking to train smarter, and are open to new ideas that will promote health, longevity, muscle growth, fat loss and hormone balance then please keep reading.
When done right, some combination of the exercise types below will promote a very healthy and strong body. The best part is, you don’t have to kill yourself by over training or just sticking to the same boring routine.
Strength train– 2-3 days a week. (up to 4 for advanced)
Moderate cardio 1-2 times a week. HR 120-140 BPM 20-30 minutes
Interval or HIIT 1-2 days a week
Mobility/stability– 2 days week. Yoga/Pilates
Restorative: As often as you like. Long walks, meditation, gentle movement or light stretching
You can combine the above together, here’s and example:
Monday: Strength Train followed my a very short HIIT or METCON
Tuesday: Moderate Cardio followed by 30 minutes of yoga
Wednesday: Strength Train
Friday: Strength Train plus 20 minutes moderate cardio
Of course that is just one example; you can make it suit your schedule however you like. Of course, if you are just beginning your fitness journey, you should reduce this volume even further and replace 1 or 2 of the exercise days with rest days or some restorative movement (walking). You can always pair things up. Like on Wednesday you could do Strength and HIIT and keep Saturday as a day off. Or perhaps you could do 30 minutes of moderate cardio in place of strength that day. You just don’t want your training to schedule to look like this:
Monday: Strength train METCON
Tuesday: 5 mile run and yoga
Wednesday: Strength Train and 45 spinning class
Thursday: 7 mile run am, cardio kick boxing pm, Yoga after
Friday: Spinning Class, Strength train
Saturday: 10 mile run, spinning
Sunday: Hot Yoga.
Below are some other articles you can check out that you might find helpful.
If you live in the Harford County area and are looking for a trainer to help get you started on a smart training program, feel free to contact me.