[top]Your parents probably told you to drink lots of milk, eat fruits and vegetables and to get plenty of exercise. Well, they also told you the tooth fairy was real.
What many people (including your parents) might not know is that it is actually possible to work out too much, making you more likely to catch illnesses or become injured. To make matters more complicated, those that may actually be exercising too much usually don’t even realize they are doing so.
Steve Pertersen, an employee at Powerhouse Gym in East Lansing, knows from experience what it’s like to over-train muscles. “I used to be the guy that would do a lot of volume training – which is a lot of sets or reps every time I’m working out on certain body parts,” said Perterson. “I would do that five of six days a week and that just does not cut it for a normal human being. You need time to rest. I would say it’s pretty hard not to over-train when you’re doing intense weight lifting more than four days a week.”
Exercise is supposed to leave you feeling energized and motivated. According to Pertersen, over-training left him feeling tired and worn out. According to bodybuilding.com, other symptoms can include reoccurring aches and pains, changes in mood, loss of appetite, troubled sleep, decline in performance and depression. After too much exercise takes a toll on the body, it is much easier to catch flus and colds due to a decreased immunity system.
In order to avoid over-exercising, active bodies should be given time to relax. Everyone should have at least one day of rest from workouts during the week. Many people forget to factor in other types of exercise – like walking to class or running up a flight of stairs – they have already done throughout the day before even going to the gym.
For Perterson, eating an extra amount of the right foods can counterbalance the effects of heavy workouts. “I notice when I’m on a higher calorie diet – when I’m eating tons of food all the time – the recovery is a lot better between workouts,” said Perterson. “I can work out a lot harder and recover a lot faster when I’m getting in enough calories. When I’m not eating properly [and] not eating enough food quantity, especially in proper proportions at certain times of the day, I’m not gonna recover properly and the soreness I get the day after a workout is longer lasting and more intense.”
Although it might seem difficult to count the protein, carbs and fat content from a meal at the caf or a fast food chain, eating a balanced diet will most likely alter waistlines and change how the body reacts to workouts. Kinesiology professor Karin Pfeiffer said drinking enough water and fluids throughout the day is one of the most important things to remember. [water]“You can have problems because over time, you dehydrate yourself,” Pfeiffer said. “If you don’t adequately re-hydrate, then you end up with issues like not having enough energy to keep going and [difficulty carrying] out some of your other functions because you’re using that energy for your exercise and then you’re kind of out of energy.”
Some of the most common injuries in athletes come from over-training certain areas of their bodies. They are referred to as “over-use injuries” and lead to strains in muscles, joints and the cartilage surrounding the bones. Ways to avoid this would be making sure to warm up and stretch before every workout. Stretching will prepare muscles to be trained and then relax when the workout is over.
Many people probably have trouble grappling the concept that overexercising can be harmful. The idea even conflicts with major themes in the history of human nature, according to Pfeiffer. “In a way it’s almost difficult to over-exercise. You can really do a lot of exercising in one day and be completely fine,” said Pfeiffer. “If we are talking over-exercise in a population like this, it’s going to be an extreme amount you’re gonna have to do, because we are capable of doing a lot. If you stop and think about the fact that part of how we were built is to be either hunter-gatherer kind of society or forage around and walk around all day long, [then] we were built to be active for quite a bit of the time. ”
For social work junior Erin Wiltse, overexercising is not a concern. Instead, she worries about getting enough exercise. She believes that over-exercising only happens in extreme cases. “If you’re talking about the people that are in [the gym] everyday for like four hours, yeah, it’s possible to work out too much,” said Wiltse.
When looking at types of exercise and the effect it has on the body, it is easy to see a big difference between cardio and weight training. Cardio mainly affects the heart while weight-training concentrates on the muscles; both exercise methods will lead to positive effects if done correctly. Marty Linclau-Miller, a personal trainer at Go Workout in Lansing, always makes sure to give his body time off from weight training but will run and do cardio as much as his schedule allows. According to Linclau-Miller, as long as someone is getting the proper nutrition, too much cardio can not hurt the body in the same way that weight lifting can.
When looking to lose a few pounds or change those not-so-favorite parts body parts, the initial thoughts of many students would be to work out more. However, after a certain point in time, the body will stop responding to exercise in the intended way.
Pre-medical freshman Diane Western sees this often while she exercises at IM West five days a week. “I know people that come and [exercise] for an hour on the Elliptical [trainer] and they go the same speed the whole time, and that’s all they do and they don’t eat before they come,” said Western. “After you go a certain amount of time…it doesn’t do any good anymore. It’s not so much working out too much, it’s just the way that you do it.”
[stretch2]These effects can be explained by the SAID principle, standing for Specific Adaptations to Implied Demands. “Basically, [SAID means] if you demand something to your body, it is going to reply by becoming stronger in that area,” said Linclau-Miller. “So if you always do push-ups, you’re going to become very good at push-ups; it’s going to become very easy and you’re going to stop seeing results.”
So in order to work out in a way that is likely to make a difference, it’s necessary to switch up the routines. To get the most out of exercising, without over-doing it, make sure to change the movement of each body part during the course of a routine. “Now you can change the type of push-up you do in order to keep your body guessing,” Linclau-Miller said. “The whole point of exercise is to keep your body guessing, so you should always be changing your routine every two to four weeks, depending on what your goals are and what you want to do.”
For those that are just beginners when it comes to working out, it’s easy to do too much too soon. It’s important to start slow and gradually do more and more as the body adapts to the new changes. Exercise not only makes changes to the body physically but also psychologically, which is why it is easy to fall into the trap of compulsive exercise.
“The Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes [exercise] every day, if you can. That’s the healthiest way to go about it, but if you’re just starting off I would say two to three days a week about 20 to 40 minutes with 70 to 80 percent of that time working out at your highest intensity,” said Linclau-Miller.
Keep exercise a positive part of life, as it should be, and keep a balance between workouts and recovery. If you’ve been hitting the gym hard all week, give yourself a day off.
Oh, and eat your vegetables.

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