Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Case of Over-Exercising

I've been guilty of over-exercising. I think it went hand-in-hand with my obsession with the numbers on the scale. I'd actually feel guilty at times if I didn't feel like I burned enough calories during a workout. Why? Because calories burned add up to equal weight loss. I became focused on working out for no less than an hour every day. That really isn't much...Unless you are doing an hour of straight cardio, pushing as hard as you can and burning too many calories for what you're eating.

Now if I workout for an hour a day it's generally on days when I eat more calories. It's not all cardio. I've mixed in strength training on a more frequent basis. I think it helps that I know how hard I need to work on which days, and that I've finally found a ST program that I am enjoying (BR). I do enjoy my JM DVDs but they can be repetitive so every now and then I take a break from her for a while.

I think that many times people forget that they burn calories all day long. The best thing to do is figure out what you need to eat every day, how much you burn through regular activity, then add in what you burn from exercise. There are simple formulas that allow you to plug in your info to determine this. Just google "BMR formula" or something similar and you will find several sites that calculate it for you, or show you the formula to figure it out on your own. The only semi-difficult part is determining your activity level. I have a job that's primarily a desk job...I get up and walk some, but the majority of my day is spent in my chair. But I workout several days a week and at, at least, a moderate level. So...How do I determine what I need? That's the tricky part because most calculators just have you choose a vaule and there's no option for "lightly active" for work and "moderately active" or "highly active" for working's one or the other. You can't choose both. That annoys me. Probably because I"m a perfectionist and like to know all of the details, all necessary information, and I like things to be exact (this is in anything really, not just working out).

Hmmm...Perhaps my perfectionistic tendencies are what lead me to over-exercising.

Anyway... Over-exercising is a problem. Believe it or not by making your body work too hard, too often, or at a level that is too much, you're only harming yourself. Working out and burning 1000 calories a day and only eating 1200 is horrible. If you're burning a great deal of calories, you need to eat more. People don't realize that over-exercising can actually hinder their weight loss efforts. Be sure you're eating a lot of healthy foods on days that you burn high amounts of calories.

Exercise is great. I love it. However, I know that too much of a good thing can be bad for me. So...I try my best to stay in a healthy range of activity. I'm not longer as concerned as I once was about how many calories I'm burning. I don't push myself insanely hard, past my limits to burn a certain amount. I watch my heart rate and make sure that's at a good rate. This will depend on your fitness level and how much you're able to do. Don't expect to start at 85% and sustain that if you're new to fitness. You may want to start lower (but stay above 40% so it's aerobic).

This formula is easy 220 minus your age, then multiply by .85
Mine is:
220-31=189; 189*.85= 160.65

I watch my HRM to make sure that I'm at that level so that I know I'm working. Sometimes I exceed it and sometimes it's lower, depending on the activity.

Did you know that over-exercising can be a problem on its own or a sign of a larger problem? While over-exercising is damaging to the body it is also damanging to the mind. I feel both the physical and psychological are huge factors in how people feel. Just trying being at the mercy of the scale, obsessing over numbers, and driven to burn enough calories so that the numbers go down...It will, most likely, cause you frustration, stress, and maybe even mess with your self-esteem a little. It's not a fun thing.

Over-exercising one of the signs of both anorexia and bulimia. Over-exercising is basically just like self-induced vomiting. You're trying to purge your body of calories, fat, and other things that your brain has decided are horrible and to be feared.

If you increase your exercise to try to erase something bad that you ate, you're doing more damage than whatever it was that you ate. Let's say you ate a cookie. You decide that to burn the calories in that cookie you need to exercise, and it's likely that you want those calories burned off as soon as possible. So... You run straight to the cardio equipment or hit the open road to run. It is highly likely that you won't stop burning when you get to a certain point (like the number of calories in that cookie). You may keep going, keep pushing...Just to the next group of calories burned, you say you'll burn ten more - and then that because twenty, which then becomes 120, you decide to push for that extra mile, you go faster because you want to beat your last run time and burn even more calories. You keep going for "just this much longer..."

This? Is a bad thing. Just like numbers on the scale, your exercise shouldn't be focused on how many calories you're burning and altering what you're doing in order to burn more. Your desire for exercise should come from a positive place... You like to do it. It keeps you healthy. It gives you time to clear your mind and escape the stress of the day. Whatever it is, you do it because it makes you happy (I'll say that in the beginning when trying to lose weight that's not always the case; it can feel like torture some days, but after you're done...You feel happy becuase you accomplished it; you finished!).

In my opinion we could all use some exercise. A healthy amount. An amount that keeps our hearts bumping, helps our brains stay alert, helps us to breathe... Exercise is good. Exercise helps to keep us strong and healthy. It can help us to lose weight. However, too much of it can harm our bodies, later in life we can be weaker because of over-exercising when we are young, it can hinder weight loss, it can cause too much stress on our organs.

When it comes to exercise, too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

Be mindful of your healthy habits. Yes, focus on what you need to do in order to lose weight; what you eat, what you burn....Just don't take it too far. If you are able to cut out 500 calories a day through diet alone, you'll see weight loss results (assuming you're just starting and you have room to cut that many - or more). Weight does impact your health, but cutting calories alone isn't enough for your overall health. The body was designed to move, so move it!! It takes time, a little bit of simple math, and some adjusting but you can find the right path for your own weight loss. You can find the right balance for the sake of your health.

If you're over-exercising, please STOP. You don't have to cease all exercise, but cut it down a little (or a lot depending on what you're doing). Work at a healthy rate. Do the math and figure out what's right for your body. If you're trying to lose weight, be patient. Losing smaller amounts of weight consistently is better for you - it's healthier than losing a whole lot at once. Don't become so focused on numbers and dropping pounds that you end up sacrificing your health.

I have been there....I have heard and read this numerous times. It took me a long time before I accepted it. It was easier to delete messages, comments, or even entire blog posts on SP. It was easy to say "you're an extremist" or "you're not a professional, you don't know anything." These are signs that you're likely in denial about over-exercising. Most of us don't want to be called out on things. We don't want others to point out our flaws. We don't even like constructive criticism, because someone has taught us that criticism is a bad thing...It points out our weaknesses. We can't be WEAK now can we? Weak is bad, right? Apparently, according to our thought processes. When we hear these things we get angry. We get defensive...Probably because we're insecure about those things, we don't like them, and we are already highly aware that we're flawed without someone else pointing it out. Sometimes the truth is hard to hear, but it's necessary.

If you're having trouble losing weight, don't just increase the workouts and burn 1000 calories a day just through exercise. That's not a good thing!! Bad! BAD! Talk to your physician. Talk to a nutritionist or a registered dietitian. They are professionals who can help you look at what you're doing and recommend healthy changes that you can make. Just remember, this all relies on your honesty. You must be truthful about everything you eat and drink. In the end, not owning up to everything is just hurting you; no one else. I guess go ahead and lie, lie, lie if you're that concerned with how your behaviors appear. Just remember that your body will show the truth.

If you think you have a problem with over-exercising, talk to someone. I'd suggest starting with your physician. The roots of why you are over-exercising might be something that you're not aware of. Maybe it's an addiction. Maybe it's an eating disorder. Maybe it's how you cope. Whatever it is, it's good to see your physician for some recommendations. I'd also strongly suggest a therapist.

Why are you so focused on numbers and reaching a certain weight? Why are you terrified of gaining weight? I really think that many times something else is going on that we don't see. Instead we cope by turning to exercise.

I think that if you've previously had a weight problem, you might be replacing one addiction with another. It happens. Think about it... You used to rely on food to be happy. Now you rely on exercise. If you have a bad day, you exercise even harder rather than eating a bag of chips and a package of cookies. You substituted one addiction, or way of coping with life circumstances, with another. I think that this is why people are so fearful to quit smoking; because they know they'll gain weight. This doesn't have to be true. Are they replacing cigarettes with something like an unhealthy food? Or more food than they need? Highly. Possible. I mean...It makes sense, right? RIGHT!? Yes.

If you have gotten defensive just reading this, go see your physician. You don't have to agree with my opinions but there are facts out there to back up what I have said. Some is my interpretation, I'm sure. Some is opinion. Some has a little dramatic flare added for illustration. But the bottom line is that over-exercise is a problem. It's bad for your body. It's often a sign of a larger problem. And that? Is not healthy.

If you're worried someone you know may have a problem, talk to someone. If you're a teen (or younger), talk to a parent, a teacher, a guidance counselor....An adult who can intervene. If you're an adult, talk to the person directly. Or the person's significant other, parents, siblings, anyone who can reach them. Stage an intervention if you need to (however, please see professional assitance, as an intervention should never be done on your own!). There's help out there. You may make someone angry initially, but if you care for someone, isn't their health, possibly their LIFE, worth the risk? I think it is. They probably won't listen at first. So keep trying. Don't give up on them. Chances are that in some way, if this is a serious problem, they may have, in some way, already given up on themselves.

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. You're worth the effort to do things the healthy way.


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