Are you training too hard

July 9, 2009

Are you training too hard

IOL Health
By Dr Chrisna Botha

So, you’ve busted your butt off in the gym five times a week doing cardio and weight training and you’re excited to get on the scale because this time you’re sure you have lost at least two kilograms. The digits starts running… you wait in anticipation.. the numbers are stuck in the same place they’ve been stuck for the last three weeks.

You start thinking what could’ve gone wrong. You’ve eaten nothing but cucumber and salad leaves, you drank the water everyone said you should drink, and you trained hard, really hard.

Suddenly and very suspiciously you start thinking about Eve. If she just didn’t eat the apple that she wasn’t supposed to, then maybe all of us wouldn’t have this struggle with our weight and lumpy thighs. This must be her fault.

If this sounds even vaguely familiar to you, then keep on reading. Truth is that it is not Eve’s fault. You are most probably jeopardising your own weight loss by training too hard.

Statistics have shown that during summer the gym is at its fullest and literally bursting with everyone training harder than ever, trying to fit into new bikinis, strapless tops and summer shorts for the holiday season.

But the thing is that starting to train like crazy the moment you want to lose weight is not the answer.

Numerous studies have shown that weight loss is much more complicated than just training as though you are preparing yourself for an ultra marathon.

Research has shown that if you keep on eating what you eat and increase you activity level slightly, using an additional 375kJ per week, you will loose weight. This equals about 20 minutes of walking at a comfortable but steady pace three times a week.

If you dig a little further into the pile of research on weight loss, you’ll find that during comparative studies between people only starting to engage in moderate exercise and those engaging in moderate exercise as well as following a kilojoule-controlled diet plan, the amount of weight lost during a period of four weeks was 20 percent greater than in those only exercising.

This shows us that we have to make a dietary change and stop stuffing our faces.. but also not just eating salad leaves!

Should you ever be able to sit down and chat to the world’s best athletes, you would find out that 80 percent of their success is nutrition and only 20 percent is exercise.

Once you have the diet sorted out, the training is easy, says Monica Brant-Peckam, International Federation of Body Building and Fitness (IFBB) figure pro.

The next thing that we usually do is train way too hard and eat way too little. Our bodies need fuel to be able to burn fat. So what happens is that we are not able to sustain the training regime and we either burn out and then stop training all together, or our bodies cling to every single ounce of fat they have in order for them to try to survive this huge burden they have to carry. Contrary to popular belief, exercise is a strain to our bodies. If we don’t do it in moderation, with a proper balanced eating plan, we can do more harm than good.

These problems usually arise due to headlines that get us to believe that we will be able to drop years of fat in only a month or two if we train really hard, and we end up hating every form of physical activity because we didn’t train correctly and therefore didn’t get the results we needed.

Or we go on a diet that we got from some magazine and we don’t lose weight. This might be that the diet is too restricted and hard for you to follow, or the types of food and quantities are not in balance with your body’s nutritional needs and energy consumption. You must remember that every single one of us is different and our bodies handle stressors and change differently. Therefore not just our exercise programme but also our nutritional plan needs to be handled individually.

The thing that I learnt is the big secret to sustaining a healthy bodyweight is to be consistent. Eat clean at least 80 percent of the time and start engaging in regular moderate exercise, three to four times a week. It has been proved those women between the ages of 25 and 55 who take part in regular physical activity for more than six months continuously have a lower body weight and their fat percentage is four percent less than those that didn’t participate in any form of physical activity.

The question remains what should you do in terms of exercise?

Obviously these are just guidelines, and it depends on personal preference but in order for you to understand what I mean with “moderate exercise” we first need to look into the RPE (Ratings of Perceived Exertion) scale (Noble, BJ; Borg GAV; et al., 1983). It ranges from 0-10, as follows:

0 – Nothing at all
0.5 – Very, very weak
1 – Very weak
2 – Weak
3 – Moderate
4 – Somewhat Hard
5 – Hard
6 – 7 – Very hard
8 – 10 Very, very hard; Maximal

Now to be able to get lasting benefits, you would need to exercise with duration of 20 ? 30 minutes of moderate exercise, three times a week. Moderate exercise means that you will need to attain a level of 4 ? 5 on the RPE and maintain this for at least 60 percent of the duration of the activity.

What type of activity should you do? Any cardiovascular type of exercise is good for weight loss; as you progress and the kilograms melt off, you will need to start incorporating some kind of resistance training in your programme but remember moderation is the key.

The types of activities to choose from when you first embark on your weight loss programme are cycling, walking, stair master, aerobics, dance, swimming, rowing, skipping rope. You will need to choose an activity that you like and one that you are able to do regularly.

It is best to get someone to help design an exercise programme for your specific needs and current fitness level, but if you follow these basic guidelines and make them part of your daily life, you’ll be able to not only improve your fitness levels but also aid your weight loss.

Perseverance is the only key to success. Until next time, make it a habit to be active!

# Dr Chrisna Botha has a BSc in Human Movement Science from Northwest University, and did her honours in Biokinetics. She has a Masters degree and doctorate in human movement science. She is in private practice in Gauteng.


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