• Ben Lombard

ARE YOU UNDER-EXERCISING OR EXERCISING TOO MUCH? HERE IS HOW TO TELL

Updated: May 13




7 weeks! This week marks the 50th day of quarantine. Are you loving it or totally over it now?


Either way, some are bossing it by baking bread, smashing workouts, working from home with ease, and some are really struggling. Today I am here to talk about how to avoid quarantine fatigue. Many people are facing the overriding urge to return to pre-pandemic ‘normality’. Instead of focusing on what we cannot change, we can look to something a little easier to control - exercise. 


Exercise - how much is enough, and how much is too much?


This is a subjective question, the answer to which is very much down to the individual. The amount of exercise you need comes down to what your goals are. We must aim to view exercise as something to enjoy, the challenge, balancing the feeling of accomplishment with continual improvement. 


Under Exercising


Here are some telltale signs that you are not exercising enough


  1. Unexpected Weight gain

  2. The feeling of lethargy and fatigue

  3. Muscular and joint aches and pains

  4. Increased difficulty with your usual daily activities


If you suspect you fall into this category you must ensure you make an effort to change this sooner rather than later to prevent irreversible damage occurring. A healthy dose of exercise can help to prevent injuries and ailments, especially in later life.


It can be difficult to find the right form of exercise for you as an individual but there is something out there for everyone. Aiming for 10,000 steps a day, or joining Couch to 5k are both great places to start. If these don't float your boat, I am here to talk about other ideas or injuries that might be preventing you from moving confidently.


Over Exercising


Importantly, there are also many signs that tell you when you are exercising too much.


  1. Unexpected weight loss

  2. Overuse injuries and long-lasting niggles

  3. Mood swings and irritability

  4. Insomnia and sleep disruption 

  5. Decreased enjoyment of usual exercise

  6. Uncontrollable hunger and altered relationships with food - binge/restriction cycles. 


If you suspect your fall into this category you too must ensure you make an effort to change this sooner rather than later to prevent irreversible damage occurring.


One of the biggest triggers for exercise-induced burnout and injury is the ‘training error’. Commonly there is a spike in training load compared to your previous norm, which is a catalyst for increased stress on the body. If stress exceeds the body’s ability to recover this can result in a typical overuse injury. During lockdown, I am seeing patients over WhatsApp or video calls. The most common #socialdistancing injuries I have seen include Plantar Fasciitis, patella/gluteal and Achilles Tendonopathy. I have also seen a few cases of shin splints, or medial tibial stress syndrome.


How to avoid over-exercising or under-exercising


To avoid burnout, injuries, over-exercising or under-exercising, start by making a plan. Whilst making this plan can be confusing there are many healthcare professionals out there ready to help you.


Find someone you feel confident in. Whether you choose a physiotherapist, a personal trainer, or an osteo, find someone who takes the time to listen to you and explain their rationale properly. If you trust, respect and enjoy working with your healthcare professional, you are more likely to communicate openly with them about what is an isn't working for you. This increases your chances of succeeding together in the long-run.


How to make a training plan


Having a plan is a surefire way to avoid overtraining, keep you accountable, keep you engaged, and to ensure that you can continue to enjoy and progress as the days, weeks, and years go by.


With any decent plan you must consider 4 things:


  1. Specificity - The training stresses created by our training should be tailored towards our goal. For example, Increasing weekly running mileage if training for a marathon

  2. Individualisation - Remember that everyone is different. We will all respond to the same stimulus differently, here it is super important to consider your own recovery and training needs. For example, You may need to run 10miles per week to increase your cardiovascular fitness, whereas I may need to run between 30-40miles as my level of fitness is already at that level

  3. Progressive Overload - In order for you to improve, your training must get progressively challenging. Your body is very quick to adapt to a stimulus and in order to get the desired adaptations, you must constantly challenge the body. For example, The 10% rule of running - increasing your mileage by 10% per week (25 mi → 27.5mi → 30.25mi)

  4. Overtraining and Overload - Overtraining, and burnout are real. The body can function under high stress and manage it well up to a point. Without the right amount of rest and recovery you can begin to undo the hard work, you have been putting in by overtraining. If you train well and rest optimally you will get OVERLOAD. If you train too much and don’t recover well you will OVERTRAIN. Take home message here = REST!


If you manage to tick all of these off the list, not only will you have a well-rounded, focused plan, you will be unlikely to overshoot or fall short of your exercise requirements. In order to smash your goals and stay fit and healthy until we can once again resume our lives, set SMART goals; specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. I look forward to hearing how you get on.

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