Seems a fallacy, right? How could too much health, too much nutrition, too much strength, too much of a washboard six pack and Brazilian Butt Lift buns ever be too much? It’s not that the result is too much, but that the journey there can take a winding, obsessive, sometimes self-abusive path. The pursuit of our glamorized ideal of perfection can be too much for our bodies to handle.
Enter excessive exercising. I’ll preface this by saying I’m not pointing fingers or accusations at exceptionally fit people, athletes, or marathoners, but rather addressing an issue that I feel often goes overlooked or is blatantly ignored. There’s no argument—exercise is a good thing. Always. Even if we’re dealing with an injury, other parts of our bodies are always hungry for use and movement. We’re machines, remember, and we must properly feed, oil and maintain ourselves to keep up with the daily drag race. But in this sometimes damaging sprint to the finish, we’ve started turning a blind eye to some of the detrimental effects that excessive training and even overtraining have on us, long-term.
First, let’s acknowledge all of the awesome ways in which routine exercise enriches our bodies and minds: Our hearts pump more efficiently, allowing increased oxygen to flow through our blood. Our detoxification process increases, as well as the effectiveness of our immune system. Exercise creates a natural rise in endorphins, heightening our moods and diminishing our urges to smash our neighbors’ pumpkins after we’ve, once again, caught their dog popping a squat in our yards. Good heart, good defenses, good mood. Good game.
Now this is what happens when we neglect those all important “rest days” in lieu of pushing ourselves to burn off the apple crisp and pumpkin donuts that are now flooding our work spaces: By way of continuously breaking down muscle without giving it a chance to heal and repair, we’re forcing our bodies into a catabolic state in which we’re actually rupturing more than we’re rebuilding. Add microscopic tears to your muscle fibers, and you’ve just upped your injury risk. Remember all those mood-enhancing endorphins? When we push ourselves too hard, we release excess amounts of cortisol, a nasty stress hormone that not only contributes to belly fat and diminishes the ability to lose inches, but also increases the risk of chronic disease and inflammation. And of course, when we don’t allow ourselves regular, sufficient rest, our bodies forget how to wind down, leading to sleepless nights, which lead to a decreased immune function, which leads to illness, which leads to not being able to exercise anyway.
The lesson is simple—excessive exertion without proper recuperation time breaks down our brains and our bodies. Something else to keep in mind—rather than solely relying on obsessive physical activity to negate a poor diet, try balancing over-exercise with taking a rest day and making a meal fit for the temples that our bodies really are. Eat slowly and visualize that food nourishing and rebuilding those biceps and butt muscles. Let the workout work for you, by giving it a rest.