Exercise is important but I really think you should start thinking about exercise quality over quantity. This might be a little controversial and I might be ranting but I still have some pretty valid points. So today, we are going to go there.
I’ve been a gym rat for many years now and over this time I’ve heard all kinds of people compare how hard they workout to others. Or expect tremendous gains or enormous weight loss because they are hitting the gym hard twice in one day. The first thought through my head when I hear this is “How hard did you really workout the first time?” and “How hard do you really expect to workout this second time around?”.
I am of course speaking to my old self at the same time. The girl that would teach for an hour then hit up the gym for another hour or hour and a half. The girl that would go from spin class to hot power yoga to weight lifting. Yes I did try to do it all and yes it worked for a while. But when it all came crashing down, it was a mess and it took my body a long time to recover from this burn-out. I thought I was doing my body a favor.
You know, exercise more, reach my goals faster. But then when I couldn’t keep that lifestyle up any longer, my body got really upset and rebelled. Even worse, I was used to eating to fuel these workouts and I quickly put on weight as soon as I stopped killing myself at the gym. And in case you were wondering, I never got to my goal. I was always sore. I always felt like shit the next day and I never got any stronger or faster. Just tired.
My point is, you approach your workout thinking about exercise quality over quantity, you will walk in the gym determined, take minimal breaks, push through every rep, and push past your comfort zone hard enough that you probably want to go home and take a nap. That’s exercise quality. And quality workouts require that you than rest that body of yours to allow for recovery. If you instead decide to do a very similar workout a few hours later or continue exercising even though you are spent, what do you think you are doing to your body? (Just to be clear, I’m not talking about 2-a-day workouts designed to hit multiple muscle groups).
My guess is that you may not have known any better. We typically think more is better (I know I did). So, if we get in that extra workout or we just push a little longer we will get double the benefits. But unfortunately, that is usually not the case. Most of the time when working out, less is better. Especially when you are weight training or doing high intensity exercise. There is a reason why a class is only 45 minutes or why your lifting program is only so many sets/reps. These programs are built for you to come in, crush your workout, then go home and recover. One time a day! These programs are built with the idea that you will bring your maximum effort to the workout (quality) so they are short and to the point (quantity).
Now let’s talk about exercise and weight gain. Did you know that over-exercising sabotages your weight loss efforts? By over-exercising, you are putting your body in an increased level of stress throughout the day. Your body doesn’t know the difference between the stress of exercise and the stress of running from a bear or dreading a meeting at work. So, your body releases cortisol (the fight or flight hormone) during workouts. By over-exercising, you are putting your body through this fight or flight situation multiple times a day. This can increase inflammation in the body, cause issues with regulating insulin and can actually cause you to store fat instead of building muscle. No one wants that!
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Usually our bodies will let us know that we are over-exercising, but if you are anything like I was, you will push through with the “no pain no gain” mentality. For years I would go to the gym for 2+ hours a day. I’d do a body pump workout in the AM, maybe hit up Yoga in the afternoon and then at night I’d hit the weights (don’t judge me!!!). I can tell you first hand and from doing it wrong that more is not better.
Symptoms of over-training include:
- Feeling overly tired, especially after a workout
- Getting sick more often
- Not being able to sleep
- Feeling like your legs are always dragging or really heavy and tired (Dave says it’s like walking through molasses)
- Sore all the time (if you are not a beginner)
Most people have to learn this lesson on their own. Lord know’s I did. Maybe that’s why I get so upset. I don’t want anyone hurting themselves. Quality over quantity when it comes to exercise is a hard lesson to learn. Most of us have heard you have to be energy deficit to lose weight. And we know that if we exercise for an hour we burn so many calories, so it’s common sense to think that doing it again in a day is a great way to double the calories we burn.
But when you are working out at high intensities, your body really can’t handle this intensity multiple times a day. You will either burn out, get sick, or get injured by doing this kind of over training. Instead I ask you, focus on exercise quality and CRUSH your workout when you go in. If you must workout again, do some steady state cardio, like walking or easy bike riding or light yoga as your second activity of the day.
Check out these great workouts where you can push yourself to the max. Think exercise quality over quantity!!
Now go workout with a new mindset and crush your goals!
What about you?
- Have you been known to over do it in the gym?
- What is your take on exercise quality over quantity?
- What would be your advice to someone who is working out hours a day (I’m not talking about athletes, that fuel and train with purpose)?