How many of you have wanted quick progress in the gym or push past a plateau? How many of you adopted the mentality that in order to do that, then more was MORE? In other words, the more I workout, the quicker I will get to my goals, because afterall a calorie deficit is what I’m aiming for right? You’ve worked yourself day in and day out, not missing a workout, restricting your calories, and so on. And you get to a point where you are now just so fatigued all the time that you don’t even want to work out, but you do it anyway because that is what is pushing you towards your goals? Maybe you’re not even sure if you’re exercising right – you’re working the same muscle groups each day, you’re always sore, but you don’t know if its right or wrong, but it doesn’t matter because your FitBit tells you that you just burned 800 calories in 2 hours – SCORE! So you develop this relationship with the gym that is nothing short of an obsession.
I’m sure some of you have been there, I have.
But what if I told you that less is more? That you don’t have to workout 7 days a week, sometimes 2 times a day, and restrict your calories and feel so fatigued you could fall of the treadmill? Maybe you’re not quite that obsessed with the gym, but you still can’t go a day without skipping the gym without feeling guilty. But what if LESS was MORE?
Let’s start here. Do you know what happens to your body, specifically your muscles when you workout? Let me tell you what most people say to this answer – my body is getting stronger! I’m building my muscles! WRONG. When you exercise you are literally tearing your muscle fibers apart. The growth happens in the rest period. So no, you aren’t getting stronger when you are working out, when you’re curling 50’s and squatting 200’s. No, you are setting your muscles up to get stronger while you are resting. The workout is like the pre-game. The fun stuff, the magic happens AFTER you leave the gym.
When it comes to muscle fiber repair, one of two things can happen leading up to this.
A) You aren’t overloading your muscles enough to break down the muscle fibers enough to a point where they have to be repaired during the rest before. Thus starting a repeating cycle of working your muscles to an almost pointless effort. If you’re not setting them up to repair and get stronger, you are essential wasting your time (Cue encouraging words to start lifting HEAVIER! You will NOT get bulky)
B) You overload too much to a point where your muscles can’t sufficiently repair themselves in the rest period. This can happen from lifting too much weight, but it likely going to be cause from lifting too much weight too frequently (Cue talk on overtraining).
The phenomenon of OverTraining.
Overtraining occurs when you push your body too hard and pass the point that your body is able to recover from. To improve you must overload the muscles and then allow adequate time for recovery and growth by resting. Overtraining occurs when either the overload is too high, or the rest period (recovery time) is too low.
Overtraining in the form of too much intensity on a constant basis, in the form of working out for hours on end, in the form of not challenging your muscles enough but still working them too much, in the form of over exercising and under eating will all hinder your results.
Let me show you a real life example.
At the beginning of my fitness journey I would work out for HOURS upon HOURS and be so freaking happy that I burned 700 calories on a total of 3 different cardio machines combined. I didn’t bother to try to educate myself on proper nutrition, I didn’t really care, because I was working out. I mean at this point, I was an 18 year old who just graduated high school – I was naive. BUT this exercise obsession continued into college, trying to beat the Freshman 15. And here, in college, I discovered that 2-a-days were a thing. UM HELL YEAH sign me up?! More exercise, yes please!
So I exercised, and exercised, and exercised. I was doing too much. I thought I was working at high intensities, but now seeing what I CAN do, I realize that it was definitely only moderate intensities – I couldn’t muster up energy for more!
I became “skinny fat”. Where I would hold on to extra body fat, primarily around my stomach, because my body was screaminggggg for proper nutrition and less exericse, but I didn’t know. My arms and legs looked relatively skinny, but my mid section didn’t exactly match up. My body fat was at a solid 23%, which was in normal range so I was happy with it. And so I kept going- working out 7 days a week for probably, oh 10 hours in total or more.
BUT what happened was I started to get educated. I mean I was now in school for Exercise Science & Health Promotion. And I learned the right way to do things, I actually began to love researching articles on those topics in my free time. I was like WOAH.
(Over-exercising -left VS. Getting it right -right)
So now? Now I exercise 5 days a week and eat more than what I used to – but my body needs it! I’ve figured out how to truly work at my highest intensities. BUT THATS OKAY! Because now I take 2 rest days and I kid you not, I only exercise for a total of 5 hours a week – MAX. Most of my workouts are now between 45 – 55 minutes and IT. IS. GLORIOUS.
And what has happened to my body composition? 8% lower body fat, more muscle, and more personal records. My body is thriving. And it’s because I stopped digging it into a hole I couldn’t get it out of.
(Too much cardio, not enough strength VS. getting it right)
My point is not to brag about what I’ve done, but rather show you that LESS IS MORE when it comes to your exercise, and WHY that is true.
Is it tempting to want to exercise more, to hit the gym after a night of rough eating, even though it isn’t supposed to be on the schedule? Absolutely. Do I sometimes do extra? Sometimes, yes. But I make sure that if I’m doing an extra workout it’s because I want to not because I’m trying to punish myself.
Working out less and eating more [of the right things and right proportions] are the hardest thing to wrap my clients minds around. But it WORKS. Results will 110% not come over night. Hell, you won’t have your “dream body” (whatever the hell that means) in one month. Nope, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. And the patience needed for that is something that is LONG GONE in this day in age where we all have access to instant gratification.
But do yourself a favor. Love yourself enough to do things the right way. Eat right, exercise right, and give yourself a solid 6 MONTHS to start seeing the progress you want. Hell, it has taken me FIVE YEARS.
Let that sink in.