A few years ago, when I first moved to London (back in 2006), I was scared of suffering the ‘Heathrow Injection’ – basically you arrive in London and you put on a stack of weight. Back then I wasn’t a personal trainer. I just liked to exercise! I ate what I wanted and exercised – pretty much every day. I felt I had to do something. If I didn’t exercise every day, I felt yuck, didn’t have as much energy and it didn’t seem right.
Before I left for London, I was really into Triathlons (I still am), but when I was there I didn’t have a bike, there was no beach or pool nearby, so I had to run to keep fit. Back then I hated running. It was my worst leg in the triathlon and I was slow and it hurt my knees.
Long story short…I toughened up and started running. But I couldn’t just run for nothing. I had to have something to aim for. I start with a marathon! I didn’t get in the ballot for the London Marathon, so went for the next best one – Paris. It was about 11 months away – I had a long time to train. And a trip to Paris – why not?
I started to enjoy running.
It wasn’t that bad after all. I got myself a program and started training.
But it slowly became an obsession. At one stage I would be running about 50km or more a week. I was just running. It felt good. I felt I could eat what I wanted. I was running, I would burn it off right? I can tell you that I was probably my heaviest and certainly not my fittest when I was training or even doing the marathon.
I trained all through my first London winter – this meant snow as well! I did some half marathon events, and a 20 mile event before the big day.
Race day came. It was unusually hot in Paris at the start of April 2007. It was about 25 degrees at 8am in the morning (when you have just trained all winter – this was REALLY hot). I was prepared for the race. I had been training for almost a year. I knew I could do it. My goal was to run the whole thing. No walking. And to aim for under 4.5hours. Now I have got this far in my story, I guess I have to tell you the rest, but I have sort of gone off on a tangent – sorry!
I started the race great – running down the Champs Élysées with thousands of other people, you don’t dream about that stuff.
At 18km I started to vomit. No idea why. This had never happened during training. I was feeling OK. I vomited every couple of kms until about 32km. In my head I thought I would dehydrate, as I was spewing up lots of water. So I drank lots of water. When I say I drank water, I was drinking about 300-500mls every 5km – I know because I kept picking up 2 water bottles at each water station. I ended up walking at 32km and I walked for about 7-8km – my body was shaking uncontrollably. My heart rate wouldn’t go down. I was shattered. I did however run the last km. I declined the plastic cup of red wine on the way down the finish line. I had made it, in 4hr 59 minutes. And then pretty much collapsed.
I was OK.I did end up with Hyponatremia (spelling!?) – I basically drowned myself from the inside out – I drank too much water and depleted all my vitamins and minerals. It can be pretty serious. I did a bit of damage to my kidneys too.
Anyway, as a personal trainer now, I know SO much more and have learnt so much from my experience. And I will do another marathon one day!
I wanted to tell you this story, as sometimes you can over do it. I have been there. Even before training for the marathon. It really is a mind thing. Exercise is really good for you, but it can get addictive and sometimes that isn’t a good thing. Once exercise is in your blood and you are in a routine, you can feel yuck, and less energised when you don’t exercise.
What you need is BALANCE.
You need to balance your body & your mind. I too have fallen into the trap of exercising 7 days a week, with no rest. And it would be for 1-1.5hrs. It might have been because I was eating the wrong foods, wanted to get fitter, achieve a goal. You may have this relationship with your body where you feel you can eat what you want and then just exercise harder the next day to ‘get rid’ of it. This was me! I didn’t want to ‘get fat’. So exercised everyday! Or you might be aiming for the ‘perfect body’, or to lose that last bit of weight. Well I can tell you that if you are exercising every day, that isn’t going to happen.
If you are exercising 7 days a week, with no rest, you won’t achieve those results you are after. There is no point in exercising just for the sake of exercising. You won’t be getting anything out of it, except exhaustion. If you are going to the gym and getting on the treadmill or doing a class or just going for a run just to tell yourself you have exercised – you might be sweating, but are you really pushing yourself to get the best out of the workout?
You are better off exercising 3-5 times a week and at those sessions giving all you have – giving it 100%. Then resting or just going for a power walk or stretching or yoga session the other days – or god forbid having a sleep in or a true rest day! You will have more energy, you will get better results because you are testing your body more when you are working out. You are more motivated to give it your best, cause you had a day off yesterday.
Don’t be afraid to have rest days – it is ok. You just have to get to a place where you can tell yourself it is OK.
As another side note – you will also find, shorter, sharper workouts are SO much more effective too – you don’t need to work out 7 days a week for hours at a time (it’s a waste of time really!) Go do something more fun and exciting instead!
Going back to BALANCE – when you find that exercise is taking over your life and you aren’t letting your body recover, you can be doing more damage than good. Physically, mentally & emotionally.
Your body NEEDS 1-2 rest days a week. Taking a day off or even a week every now and then, will not reverse all your hard work. It will not make you get fat – what it will do is re-energise you. Make you more motivated to pump out a great session next time you exercise and also make you think more about what you put in your mouth.
If you are experiencing any of the below, you may be in the ‘over doing it’ category and need to have some more rest days, before you do more damage:
- You feel exhausted rather than energised after working out (You will know the difference!)
- You are getting colds and flu really easy – or it takes forever to get over a cold.
- You feel a bit down in the dumps
- You don’t seem to get enough sleep, or have trouble sleeping
- You are moody and snap all the time – little things setting you off.
- Niggling injuries that don’t seem to get better
- If you are doing more than 1 hour a day of exercise
So if you find you are over doing it, what can you do about it?
Let yourself be OK to have a rest day. Start with having 1 rest day a week – schedule it. Enjoy a sleep in. Do some stretches instead. Or just go for a walk. Don’t feel guilty, just know that at your next workout you will be more energised and pumped to give it 100%, not just the 60% you have been doing at all your other workouts. Once you have mastered 1 rest day, go for 2!
If you have injuries – rest them, let them get better. Do alternative things – if you have an upper body injury, do lower body. If you have lower body injuries, focus on upper body – or just take a whole week off! I promise the world won’t end!