Is Your Favorite Form of Exercise Hurting You?
Updated: Sep 9, 2018
You can get too much of a good thing. For those of us who have managed to make exercise a regular part of our routine (or for those who aspire to), we all naturally gravitate toward the types of exercises we like. While that can be a good thing, in this post I want to explore the downside of sticking with what we like.
Yes, consistency is your superpower when it comes to using fitness as a tool for body transformation and sustained health, but almost equal in importance in exercise is to mix it up. More than a few weeks of the same workout will slow significantly slow down your results leave you mentally disengaged, and create overuse injuries.
As you age the need variety as the spice of exercise longevity. That’s why I encourage a well-rounded approach to fitness…it’s part of being a Whole Human.
WHERE VARIOUS FORMS OF POPULAR EXERCISE CAN FAIL YOU
Crossfit (and other high-intensity formats like Insanity):
Working out at a high intensity every time you workout is a fast track to overuse injuries, digestive problems, and even more serious conditions like rhabdomyolysis. Yes, high-intensity formats can trim body fat nicely, but at what expense?
People who drink too much of the “Crossfit Kool-Aid” tend to have a short shelf life as a crossfit athlete. Side note: Such people are a boom for chiropractors and physical therapy offices. On the bright side, I love the way crossfit makes exercise a community, a tribe, and I like the idea of a regular change in stimulus so you’re not doing the same workout all the time.
Yet, while the “Workout of the Day” approach is great for tribe building, it can be terrible for getting the workout you need on a given day.
Distance Running and Endurance Sports:
This can be great for building a strong heart...but it can also be terrible for the heart (see the excellent Ted Talk: Run for your life! At a comfortable pace, and not too far: by a cardiac surgeon James O’Keefe) - Worse is that too much running (or swimming/biking/etc) can produce worn down shoulders, hips, knees, ankles and feet.
Runners (often a tough breed to reason with on the idea of running less), can have quite the list of injuries, surgeries, including long-term sciatica or other chronic pains. Running can be great, but it can certainly be over done (according to the surgeon mentioned above, more than 3-5 miles, 3-4 times a week is too much...and that from a guy who loves running).
Where endurance sports are most likely to leave you hurting is when they are the primary or only form of exercise someone engages in.
Yoga, Pilates, Barre and the Like:
These formats can be great for building all sorts of fluid movement, unloading the joints and creating body-wide stability that helps reclaim the buoyant flexibility of youth. Their blind spots can be things like limited cardiovascular improvement, and lack of raw strength for the inevitable heavy things that show up in life. While they can be a good place to start to rebuild your foundation, they are also not great if your goal is weight loss.
Body Building and Power Lifting:
Body Builders and Power Lifters don’t age well. These forms of exercise are obviously good for building raw strength, shaping our musculature and building confidence, but their weaknesses can be poor cardiovascular health, excessive wear and tear (literally) on the joints, and premature aging.
The motions a body builder does in the gym often look nothing like the way we humans move through the rest of life. Because of this, body builders tend to create dramatic positions of strength concurrent with significant positions of weakness.
Sports, Dance and Martial Arts:
These forms of exercise can obviously be great for any number of tangible and intangible
reasons. The main upside is they are the most “functional” of all forms of exercise. The challenge with them can reinforce one-side dominance in our movements and depending on the sport and level of competition they can create significant and long-term wear and tear.
The best key to enjoying these forms of exercise for the long term is to practice a well-rounded approach to training. At the US Olympic training center part of their secret sauce for training spectacular athletes is variety outside their chosen sport.
A MODEL FOR ENGAGING IN A LIFETIME OF ENJOYABLE EXERCISE
While it's more than I can unpack here. The model below can help you sharpen your intuition on where the gaps are in the way you approach your own fitness. If you have questions about what's below. Feel free to reach me at the link below.
AVOIDING PLATEAUS AND DEVELOPING A WELL-ROUNDED APPROACH
When you challenge your body with exercise (as you should), it will push back at times. That’s normal. It can be a good thing if you look at it as instructive about where you might be overdoing it and where you can make adjustments to be more holistic in your fitness.
Listening to the body when it pushes back can help you find underlying susceptibilities and address them before them become an overuse problem.
ONE OF THE BEST WAYS TO SET YOURSELF UP FOR EXERCISE SUCCESS
Consider hiring a Personal Trainer. If you find a good one it's one of the best investments you can make. Check out my other article for Four Tips for Finding a Good Personal Trainer.
If you're up for some live, online video coaching and exercise programming, we include that as part of our Whole Human Coaching. There's something special about having someone's eyes on you as you move, seeing you objectively, coaching you, and fast-tracking your intuition about what YOUR body needs. Hit me up if you'd like some help. firstname.lastname@example.org
Here's to you exercising smarter and staying fit late in life.