Federal officials estimate around 30 percent of the adult population is inactive, despite a near-constant bombardment of messages regarding the value of physical activity.
But sometimes the exercise experts must turn their attention and focus to those individuals who take the fitness gospel too far. These are either committed exercisers who overtrain to the point of burnout or even injury, or well-intentioned couch potatoes who embrace an exercise regimen too aggressively only to fall victim to injury.
Burnout is hard to describe, but easy to spot. Overtraining is exercise beyond the abilities of the body. It’s when the training, intensity, or duration really surpass the recuperation time needed. For example, you might be a long-distance runner who goes out and runs hard daily, perhaps for several hours, and allows no recuperation time. If so, you’re probably overtraining.
Recuperation time is key, and does not mean total rest, but rather active rest. You might follow a long hard run with an easier jog the next day. If no recuperation time is employed, you’ll soon see a decrease in performance and your motivation may begin to taper off. For some, this taper can lead to a point of halting the exercise regimen altogether.
It is estimated that 10 percent of the American adult population falls into the overtraining trap. Certain sports where overtraining is common include gymnastics, body building, marathon running and figure skating. While athletes and dedicated exercise enthusiasts are the ones likely falling victim to pushing things too far, those weekend warriors or those new to an exercise routine often run into problems.
The key is listening to your body. If you start to feel more exhausted than energized despite your best exercise efforts, it’s probably time to scale back your fitness program a bit. Don’t expect to exercise an hour every day just because one of your fit friends does. The body needs time to adjust and adapt. And remember, the progress of exercise is made during the recovery period. Otherwise you may find yourself taking one step forward, two steps back.