"It's all about getting out and doing something."
It's a commonly used statement that gives me the same mixed feelings every time I hear it. As a fitness trainer, I take responsibility to debunk as many exercise and training "myths" that are in existence and common practice today -- and there sure are a lot of them.
Before I continue, I'll say this. I think popular culture has a whole lot to do with this "all things now" mentality that pervades the Western World. Going under the knife to alter appearance used to be anomalous, and now it's just another thing to do in order to get the look you want, how you want it, and when you want it.
I bring this up because it's in good order to remind everyone that the end goal is for us to be in this for the long haul. You know -- the rest of your life. A pair of butt implants, fake lips or boobs may have appeal to many when you're in your 30s or even 40s. But what about when you're in your 60s or 70s? How much of a reality check will it be when you have to come to terms with the fact that you can't out-surgery the aging process?
This isn't meant to be a downer. There's good news. You can definitely combat the aging process by way of exercise. Proper exercise. If you're not paying attention to your body's balance, biology, and safety, you may be moving towards an injured, decrepit, and immobile body faster than you can say "nip tuck." There would be nothing worse than having the joints of a typical 75 year old by the time you're only 45 or 50. Doing the wrong workouts can take you there. Here are six red flags.
You're Running Too Much
Running is one of those things that tend to make most professional health experts feel forced to choose a side of extremism.
Running zealots think it's fantastic for endorphin release, cardiorespiratory fitness, fat loss, and keeping the muscles active. Gym aficionados believe running damages joints, creates plenty of imbalances throughout the body, minimally helps change the metabolism, and promotes poor posture. The truth is, both groups are right.
Running is fine -- the problem is, most of the people who do it, do it way more than they should, compared to training to improve strength and promote muscle and skeleton balance. The result: The joints get pulled on much more from the muscles of one side of the body than the other, and chronic pain worsens as time goes on. Remember to strengthen more often than you go running.
You're Not Lifting Weights
In harmony with the above subheading, people mistakenly think there are a number of ways to improve strength, and end up thinking that Yoga, Zumba, or boot camp-style classes do the job just fine for making muscles and bones stronger. Don't be fooled -- this can be the slow demise of your body's fortitude as you get older. The only way for you to build strength is to apply forces against heavy resistances. It takes hitting the weights in the gym using an intelligent training program to truly accomplish this. And doing this doesn't mean you'll get bigger -- it means you'll get stronger. Set the foundation now, and get strong before you get injured.
You Use Poor Technique
You're in the gym, ready to pump iron, and you're doing it four days a week, compared to three days of running. So you've got it all figured out, right?
The next thing to worry about is your form. You can just as quickly get injured if you use poor lifting technique, especially when it involves heavier weights. It doesn't make muscles "work harder" -- there's more to it than that. Poor lifting technique will create undue stress on joints, and potentiate a muscle strain or tear, or a tendon or ligament injury. Pay attention to your form, use a spotter, and invest in the help if a professional if at all possible.
More exercise is always better than less.
That is, until your nervous system and neurotransmitters give you the finger. Most people reading this are everyday individuals with everyday jobs. That means you're not a professional athlete who gets paid to train. Your full time responsibilities exceed just your workouts. That means frequent training will probably take a larger toll on your central nervous system, and increase the need for you to rest and recover to compensate. You'll notice overtraining making itself manifest by way of:
• Decreased performance during workouts (you're not as strong, not as fast, etc)
• Decreased energy levels
• Lowered libido
• A plateau in results (both in performance and in physical change)
• Lowered body temperature in the evening compared to morning
• Lingering body soreness
If you're someone who tries to work out every day, start by taking one to two days of complete rest each week. You'll likely notice a difference in a short time. Persisting in a workout regime that involves overtraining will result in elevated stress levels, early "burnout," and most likely a decreased life expectancy.
Your Sleep Habits Suck
On the topic of recovery, insufficient sleep at night will be the nemesis of a sound, proper recovery. Try your best to go to bed at a decent hour, and get seven solid hours of sleep per night. It's important that you don't just look at it in terms of hours, either. If your body's used to catching deep REM sleep by a certain point in the evening, going to bed too late can really throw things off and interrupt that pattern. It'll only be a matter of time until you reach the same burnout mentioned in the subheading above. Someone who has a family, a stressful job and gets four hours of sleep per night may feel the effects of overtraining with only three workouts per week!
Your Nutrition Needs Work
You can train all you want. If you're not giving your body the right nutrients it needs, you're killing your health slowly. When you train regularly, your body will need plenty of protein for recovery and repair, and good carbohydrates and fat sources for energy. Eating processed foods, drinking insufficient amounts of water, and not having enough protein will keep your muscles in poor condition, increase your body fat and cholesterol levels, and eventually result in an injury due to poor tissue quality. That will end your "healthy" lifestyle a lot sooner than you'd hoped.
The debate between "eat clean and not train," versus "train hard and eat dirty" has been ongoing for eons. My professional opinion is that you can't have one without the other. Keeping both in mind gives more room for leeway on either side.
Don't be a Square
The cool kids of fitness are training for the long haul. Don't go hard without minding the warning signs. It can mean the difference between just being on another health kick that doesn't end nicely, or being in this for the long haul, and enjoying a fit body, well into retirement.
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