Wednesday, March 3, 2010

When it comes to working out, could LESS be MORE?

I have a good friend who recently started working out regularly. She wants to lose a few pounds, and is working out three days a week for about 45 minutes. She's not seeing any results, and asked me for advice. I immediately told her that maybe she needs to work out more--more often, and longer. But then I started thinking--more about my own situation than hers--is it possible that less is actually sometimes more?

After the birth of my first baby, I worked out consistently, but probably nearly not as much as I do now. I changed my eating habits (tried the South Beach Diet for a few weeks--HATED it, but lost all the baby weight), and continued working out REGULARLY.

After the birth of my second baby, however, I couldn't wait to start working out. The overtraining probably happened during my pregnancy, and I was working out (intensely) anywhere from an hour to an hour-and-a-half six days a week. Soon after my baby was born, I went right back on that schedule. And guess what...I NEVER lost all of the weight before getting pregnant again. It's possible that I had more muscle, but I actually think I was just overtraining. Looking back, I should have probably cut back on the intense workout sessions, really focused on clean eating, and would've had better results.

I hate to say it, but my heart rate monitor is partly to blame. I'm a number gal, and I couldn't stand the thought of seeing my total calorie burn for the week anywhere under 3,000.

I'm completely guilty of the American mentality that if a little bit is good, then a lot must be better! I made a horrible garlic pasta when I was first married. If the recipe calls for 3 garlic gloves than 7 would make it even better, right? Luckily I married well, and my husband and I laughed for days. Another example--if you're supposed to apply sunless tanner once a day, then wouldn't twice a day work even better? I've been beautifully orange more times than I'd like to admit!

I have the same problem when it comes to working out...if I didn't have little rugrats keeping me grounded, it actually sounds fun to me to spend countless hours at the gym. But I would definitely be overtraining, and would probably look no different than I do now (pre-pregnant now, that is).

Overtraining can be especially harmful if you ARE following a diet plan. Over-exercising and restrictive eating will cause your body to hang on to any available fat for fear of never getting any more!

So what's my point? Listen to your body! Are you logging countless hours on the treadmill without seeing results? Are you losing muscle? Are you completely exhausted? As strange as it sounds, for some of us, working out a little less could actually be the answer!

So come July when I'm waking up at 4 am after a sleepless night just to fit in a super long workout before my husband goes to work, remind me...LESS IS MORE! I'll definitely be experimenting and tweaking my life with the birth of #3. As always, I'm open to suggestions!

Can any of you relate? Do you overtrain? Do you undertrain? Do you wonder why you work out so much without ever seeing results?


Judi, et al said...

Hmmm . . . I am not sure for others but for me consistency works best. I need to consistently get at least 7 hours of sleep. I need to consistently make good food choices. I need to consistently exercise. Then I can allow myself some indulgences, like dessert on Sundays and sleeping in (if you can call 7:30 a.m. sleeping in) on Saturdays. I feel best when I am following my goals. Results seem to happen if I am consistent in three areas (as noted above) exercise, good food choices, and sleep!

Jer + Lu said...

I think the current recommendation by some big guru is 30 minutes 5x/week to MAINTAIN PROPER HEALTH. If you're trying to LOSE weight, you're gonna have to step it up. But all in good time. If you're starting from scratch, you've obviously got to work up to it.

I used to be consistent 3-4 days/week (due to my work schedule). Now I'm a religious 6 days/wk and I feel terrible if I miss a day!

As for weight loss, the only thing that's ever worked for me is CUTTING CALORIES. And it's very hard!! But no pain, no gain!

(you've inspired me to do my own little exercise post! thanks again for all your great tips!!)

Bonnie Wayne said...

One of the Doctors I worked with for weight loss coaching (he was also Pres of AMA in New Mexico) would mention that he toughest clients to help lose weight were the ones who exercised the most frequently. He could more easily get someone in a WHEELCHAIR to lose weight.

I have thought a lot about that and made observations with myself and with clients. Balance seems to be the key. I personally believe nutrition weighs a little higher on the scale, especially for Americans as many of us tend to be insulin resistant. You can tell if you are insulin resistant by the spare tire-ish look.

Some people feel if they work out 90 minutes they can eat whatever they want. One of our friends does just that. He works out 90 minutes EVERY DAY except Sunday and he hasn't lost any weight in 8 months. I don't know about you, but I would get very discouraged about working out. But this guys DOES eat whatever he wants, and he is totally missing that nutrition component, which I feel is SOOO important.

I also believe its very important to change things up to break plateaus with weight loss. Both with working out and with what you eat. Your body will accustomize itself to what you do, whatever that may be. If you always have a yogurt for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and chicken with broccli for dinner, you may lose weight on this low cal diet for a while, but your body will accustomize itself. I had a cousin who did this and just could not understand why she couldn't lose weight.

So you have to change up what you eat (still be healthy) and instead of always doing cardio or something, change it to some anaerobic activities, like yoga and sidelying pilates.

Aubrey said...

I've heard weight loss is 90% eating and 10% exercise. Sadly I think it's kind of true. If you are exercising a lot, you have to fuel your body, but we all know we can't fuel our bodies with junk. I think the clean eating is key. Working out is really important but so is eating right and sleep (did I just write that?).

Annakaisa said...

Many times I've noticed that "less is actually more". 7 garlic gloves and orange tanning... heh heh, I can picture it all in my head. Robyn, you're funny! :D
I think people can over do it with exercise too, so like you said, listening our bodies is the most important thing.

Cara said...

What a great post. Definitely some good "food for thought."

Lyenna said...

I definitely find myself over training. I am an exercise junky to say the least, but I always felt that way too. More has got to be better! However, it truly isn't. With that said though going too small won't get you there either. LISTEN to your body, and always change it up. Everyone hits a plateau at some point, but that's because our bodies are AMAZING, and very efficient! If all you do is run on the treadmill everyday, it's time to rethink your strategy:) And I don't know about you, but eating the same thing day after day would make me crazy. Variety is the spice of fitness and life. Having a rest week with light exercise might just be the key to get your body pumping again the next week. Just something to think about.