Can you ever have too much of a good thing? Yes. Yes you can. And depending on what that thing is, you can cause all sorts of damage to yourself, your health and your well-being. Don’t believe me? Choose your favourite take-out food and go eat it in buffet format… It won’t take long before you’ve overindulged and spend the next forty-eight hours regretting it for various reasons. And believe it or not, you can also have too much fitness, exercise and workouts. And even karate. There, I said it.
I think it was Epicurus who said, “No pleasure is bad in and of itself; only the consequences from overindulgences in those pleasures.” I think this applies to everything from favourite foods, sleeping and yes, even working out. I bring this up after recognizing that during the week of January 3rd, I performed 10 workouts. No, that’s not a typo! Granted, this is partially because I joined RunKeeper’s “Small Steps, Big Goals” Challenge that basically requires walking 50 kilometres and tracking them via the app, for the month of January. I’ve just been too excited (or stubborn?) at the recent purchase of my new kettlebells NOT to include a strength workout every day after my walk, as well.
What are the possible effects of working out too often or overexerting yourself? Well, according to a short article posted by HealthLine.com, most of the signs will be pretty recognizable. The first is pain, which I think makes sense. Working out causes damage to the muscle tissue, which then heals up stronger and bigger than before. This is how fitness growth is done. The next is fatigue. Not being tired, but fatigue. The difference is that being tired can be fixed almost immediately by resting. Fatigue can have a much deeper significance, including lack of energy, poor movements and lack of concentration.
You’ll also get sick more often. When you overexert yourself, your body will take longer to heal and recover, which means your body can’t fight other shit like, say colds and flus… Things like that. The last symptom the article included is difficulty breathing. If this happens, it can mean one of two things: either the exercise is too intense for the amount of oxygen you’re holding in, or you happen to be one of those poor idiots who holds their breath when doing something that requires effort! Not only should you be breathing properly throughout your workout, a decent exhale during the peak of a movement can be helpful to its proper execution. This is especially true in karate.
I’ll add a personal one that’s quite important, which is good nutrition. Most people seem to eat like trash. You need to include some lean proteins, healthy doses of vegetables (I have a rough time with that one) with at least one meal with a good dose of carbohydrates. That’s right, the Diabetic is suggesting carbohydrates. Don’t forget that carbs are your body’s fuel and you need to refill the tank after you’ve burned most of it. Although reduced-carb/reduced-calorie can help burn body fat, you can also overdo that aspect, which will lead to a whole different batch of complications.
You can avoid overexertion by acknowledging your particular circumstances. Age, medical conditions personal abilities are important and shouldn’t be ignored. Given that I have Type-1 Diabetes, testing my blood sugar levels every hour during fitness is an important aspect. You may be thinking, “Every hour? Am i supposed to be working out for longer than an hour?” Well realistically, the average karate class lasts between one and a half to two hours. My 70-kilometre bike runs last for almost four hours. It’s a bit tougher to stop during karate, since dojo etiquette usually prohibits leaving the floor without the instructor’s consent, but health comes first!
Another good way to avoid overexertion is by ensuring you’ve warmed up properly, you avoid sudden twisting and jerking movement that will hyperextend your muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints, get rest and food as appropriate and at appropriate times. And test, test, test… Different workouts will have different effects on your blood sugar levels, so it’s important to stay on top of that. Also, don’t forget to lighten the load when you need to. I’ve lost count of how many times in a gym that I’ve started doing reps only to drop to a lighter dumbbell for the next set because it was too much. There’s no shame in this. In fact, it’s a smart move and guarantees better growth and faster recovery.
The last, important point to avoid overexertion is learning how to do things properly. It may feel great to pound that punching bag for thirty straight minutes, but if your technique is wrong you can risk all sorts of injury and issues. Better to start slow and learn whatever it is you’re doing properly before increasing the intensity and amount. You’ll avoid all the nasty stuff and reap more of the benefits.
Get some rest! Did I workout in some way, shape or form every day during that week I mentioned earlier? Yes, I did. I also reached 10 workouts the following week, although some of these included the fitness challenge’s walks and some meditation (yes, meditating burns calories and can be considered a workout in some instances). One of the unexpected issues with working out almost constantly, is that your body will develop a muscle memory to constantly being taxed. This means that your system, as well as your blood sugar levels, will get used to constantly moving and exercising. The next time you have a light week where you may only work out once or twice will cause a reverse effect and mess with your blood sugars. Food for thought.
Fitness is important. Absolutely. But so is decent rest, good nutrition and proper form in all that you do. Work hard and focus on the benefits you’ll eventually gain. But keep a firm eye on what you’re doing and listen to what your body is telling you. It’s normal to feel pain during a workout, but there’s a big difference between aching or “feeling the burn” and being in genuine pain. Drink lots of water, take breaks and take care of yourself first. Your body is the engine that drives you, and every engine needs to cool down from time to time. ☯