Exercise: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Mike Baird

You’ve seen the girl—the one lifting heavy weights for hours (with no rest) or running full speed at full incline on the treadmill for an entire gym session. If you’re envious, you shouldn’t be. Exercise researchers aren’t happy with her performance.

“People think a good workout is, ‘I am in a pile of sweat and puking,’ ” William Kraemer, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Connecticut, told the New York Times. But if that happens, he said, “it means you went much too quickly, and your body just can’t meet its demands.”

But it isn’t easy to find just the right balance between working out enough and resting — while still gaining results.

“You should feel tired, said John Raglin, a sports psychologist at Indiana University. But if you do too much with too little rest, your performance gets worse, not better,” he told the New York Times.

“When they train harder yet stop improving, even backslide, “they become alarmed and try to increase their training,” Dr. Raglin said. He sees it over and over: An athlete will get into a training schedule and become very dogmatic, never taking a day off,” reported the New York Times.

Researchers say muscles need to recover after they are stressed with heavy weights or heavy exercise periods. “Intense endurance exercise depletes muscles of their energy supply, glycogen. Muscles store enough glycogen only for an hour and a half to two hours of activity, Dr. Saltin, told the New York Times.” It takes about a day for super athletes to restore their glycogen and about two days for the rest of us. Connective tissue in muscles can also be damaged from hard workouts and needs time to recover. So how to avoid a too-intense exercise program? There are no hard rules, because people’s bodies vary so much, but researchers say to take a look at your symptoms and keep an exercise log — check in when you are feeling tired or even depressed from over exercising and take a day off or do less during your workout.

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