Exercising is one of the most under utilized tools when it comes to human health. It has been shown to improve brain function, depression, neurological disorders, arthritis, osteoporosis, and many more health issues. However, it seems that in the western culture we live in today there are extremes on both ends of the spectrum. There’s the obvious extreme of people that don’t exercise consistently (for a variety of reasons) and they wonder why their health is inadequate. Now, on the other end of the spectrum you have the extreme fitness enthusiast, and most of you know the type. I’m sure that you’ve seen them on social media doing crazy unorthodox calisthenics and weightlifting circuits and using the hashtags “beast mode” and “no days off.” Although, it would seem obvious that the extreme fitness enthusiast is the way to go; I have a reality check for all of you reading this, both extremes are unsustainable just in different ways.
The non-exerciser should seem fairly obvious why that’s not sustainable, but the over-exerciser most wouldn’t think or realize is just as unsustainable only in a different way. With that being said, there’s a dichotomy to exercising, you have to hit that sweet spot in the middle of the spectrum, you have to have balance. Not enough exercise and you have poor health, too much and you have poor health just in a different way. It makes me cringe when I see these crazy crossfit circuits with a ridiculous amount of burpees , box jumps, and olympic lifts; as well as, individuals who go out and run on a joint unfriendly surface for 4 plus miles. Now, most of you reading this are probably wondering why as a performance coach I’m calling out a population that likes to exercise, when in fact all I’m addressing is their approach to it. You see there is a difference between exercising and practicing, both are necessary, however, one should come before the other.
Exercise is a skill, whether it be running, jumping, weightlifting, etc… With that being said, practicing should come well before any high intensity exercise routine. I don’t care if you do cross-fit, interval training, power lifting, or distance running, these are all skills and as with any skill practicing the skill should come well before putting it into practice. This is one of the main reasons in western culture we’re seeing a lot of musculoskeletal injuries as a result of exercising, because we’re skipping the most fundamental step of practicing. Let’s take running for example, running is a full body skill that puts a tremendous amount of neurological, physiological, and mechanical stress on the body. With that being said, it’s probably not the best of idea to just one day grab a pair of running shoes and just start running to get in shape. The majority of injuries happen when the demand or stress of the activity is greater than the athletes capacity; and, though your heart is in the right place, you first must have the capacity in more than one respect to perform whatever activity it is that you’re trying to accomplish. Because, with exercise you’re either going to trigger an adaptation or a compensation, and one will strengthen you the other will weaken you.
In closing, exercise is one of the best tools that you can use to improve your health and optimize your performance. However, too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing no matter what it is. Remember that no matter what level of fitness your at the two best ability’s are availability and durability. You can’t do what you love and/or make money doing it if your training is breaking you down and not building you up.