It’s the beginning of a new year and there are quite a few new faces at the gym I frequent. I go there, but I don’t spend a lot of time IN there. I like my workouts how I like my women, short and sweet! When I workout at the gym, I’m in and out in about an hour. This includes changing in the locker room, warm up and workout, cool down, shower (and brush teeth!). There is a trend that I notice among exercise newbies though – they spend a WHOLE lot of time in the gym. I’m talking 1-2 hours a workout, sometimes 5 days a week. That’s 5-10 hours a week exercising! The more the better though, right? Not necessarily.
Exercise is simply a stressor which stimulates our neuromuscular system. It activates our fight or flight response, which has three phases: the alarm, resistance, and exhaustion phases.
Alarm Phase – In terms of exercise, this is when you’re working out and your heart rate increases, blood vessels expand, and your body starts series of chemical reactions to provide energy for these movements.
Resistance Phase – You’re finished, and you’re a sweaty, stinky mess. Now your heart rate begins to return to normal and you start healing from that workout (i.e. returning to homeostasis.)
Exhaustion phase – You’re feeling sluggish all the time. You’re tired. You feel weak. You’re much more likely to get sick. Your performance in the gym has decreased and you find it hard to want to do it anymore. YOU ARE TOO STRESSED. Welcome to the exhaustion phase. Your body is having a hard time returning to normal, and things are starting to break down. One of two things typically happen here with newbies – they keep pushing to the point of injury, or they stop for a few days to recover and those few days turns into a week and just snowballs from there. Then poof! All those gains are gone and you have to pass go again, but you don’t collect $200.
What you want to do is stay within the first two phases, alarm and resistance. To do that, you have to find a balance. You do that by starting slow and not trying to push yourself too hard at first. Keep it to 40 minutes tops at first (listen to your body, it knows what’s best for you!) For a complete newbie, going from almost no working out to 1 – 2 hours is only giving you a one-way ticket to exhaustion phase. Same holds true if you’re not a newbie, but have been off for a while (more than a month of no activity.)
Don’t buy into the hype that more is better when it comes to exercise. Quality is king. Quantity can make you sick. Ease into things and you’ll have much better results. Promise.
To your health and wellness,
Martin Arroyo, CPT
If you have any questions related to this post or health, wellness and fitness please contact me! I love talking to others about my passion!