I often feel like a cheerleader for incorporating regular safe movement and exercise into your daily schedule to prevent fractures, osteoporosis and low bone density (osteopenia). Have fun with it! Move safely! Vary your routine! Make it social!
Sometimes, however, I need to suggest that a person back off of an exercise program that has grown too hard in frequency, duration, or intensity. It’s called overtraining. More is not always better. Rest and recovery time must be built into an exercise schedule. When we hear that exercise is helpful for bones, we might think that if a little bit is good, a lot more will be better. Not so. The goal is to build stronger muscles so that they can exert a stronger pull on your skeleton, giving it the stimulation to stay strong. Overtraining can reduce your muscle strength, which is not going to help your bones.
Knowing if you’re overtraining is a very personal call. The symptoms can be subtle–always being overly tired the day or two after a workout, not even wanting to go for a leisurely stroll around the block. If the overtraining has been going on for some time, that fatigue can last longer. Of course, when you're just beginning an exercise program or after a long hike, bike ride, or other longer-than-usual activity, it’s normal to experience some extra muscle soreness or fatigue.
Overtraining is different. Consistently exercising too hard can result in having a lower than optimal level of energy.
Some other symptoms of overtraining:
Losing strength and fitness
No motivation to move
Always having delayed onset muscle soreness from the same regular activity.
Feelings of irritability, even without muscle soreness or overt fatigue.
Grumpiness is my red flag on Tuesdays and Fridays. Why? On Mondays and Thursdays I get more than enough exercise teaching two group strength training classes, as well as several private lessons. As much as I’d love to dive in there and exercise as hard as everyone else, I've learned that I need to modify my routine in order to keep from overtraining.
As each decade passes, I need to modify a little more. In my forties it was hardly an issue. In my fifties, things started to change. I’d always have my PE classes do a minute of jumping for their bones. After some time, however, I had to ask a student to lead the jumps because it was starting to hurt my knees. Humph! As much as I wanted to be invincible, I had to also learn humility and accept that too much exercise, especially the wrong kind for my age, was not helpful. Now, in my sixties, I watch how my body and emotions are responding to my workout schedule in order to reap the maximum benefits.
Have a day or two of rest incorporated into your exercise schedule. This doesn't mean bed rest, but lighter exercise, even a pleasant saunter around the park.
If you’re having symptoms of overtraining, go lighter in duration, intensity, and frequency. Don't go too long, too hard, or too often.
Vary the mode—have several activities in your exercise repertoire, not just one.
If you have a couple of harder resistance or strengthening workouts a week, schedule 48 to 72 hours between them. Vary your routine with light exercise such as a brisk walk after strength training days. If you’re going on a long hike or bike ride, don’t do strengthening exercises the day before.
caption id="attachment_2774" align="alignright" width="300"] Getting in a few back extensions while watching the tube and playing with my zombie dog, Tippy![/caption]
Make sure that you feel uplifted and energized after exercise. If it’s fatigue that you regularly feel after exercise, it could be overtraining or maybe a health issue. See your doctor to ask how much exercise is right for you. Get enough good nutrition and sleep. Growing older and chronic health conditions make it very important to pay attention to exercising at the optimal level for you. It’s always a work in progress.
You might find my recent post helpful on Osteoporosis Exercise Guidelines and Motivating Resources for New Year's Resolutions.
Exercise can add years to a good life. Balance is the key! What do you do to vary your exercise program?
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