As I slowly creaked my way out of bed today, a thought that has passed through my mind a thousand times before visited me again. Specifically, “How much is too much?”
While in my particular case the thought was pertaining to my recent jump back into regular gym time and martial arts practice, that question could be applied to anything. We all “know” that exercise is supposed to be good for us. Properly applied, regular (or even irregular) exercise can have a huge range of positive effects on us physically, psychologically, and spiritually. But, as humans often do with many things, we take this to extremes. Some is good, so more must be better. That is true to a point.
I said that I “creaked” as I got out of bed today, but luckily I know that most of these pains are simply DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). It’s often normal to feel some stiffness or pain upon starting or resuming an exercise program. But logic should tell us that there is a limit to how much pain we should feel. If you’re a little bit achy after that run, there’s probably nothing to worry about. But if your workout was four days ago, and youSTILL can’t walk up a flight of stairs — you may want to reevaluate how much intensity you’re bringing to your program. Here’s a good rule of thumb I like to use:
If you’re too sore to do what you did yesterday again today, then you probably overdid it!
We have been conditioned to “love the pain” (or at least that’s what we hear from so many fit people), so we figure the more we hurt, the better job we must be doing. Right? WRONG! We must remember that every time we exercise with any significant load or intensity, we’re causing some degree of trauma to our body’s systems. There’s a lot of crazy physiological stuff going on that I won’t get into in this post, but just remember that we are exercising to be stronger and more fit. So stress your body, but don’t OVER-stress it. As Lee Haney is known for saying: Stimulate, don’t ANNIHILATE!
You see, our bodies are wonderful at recovering from and adjusting to the idiotic things we do to them. We have mechanisms in place that allow us to get stronger, faster, circulate blood more efficiently, and even digest food with greater effectiveness. But even the best machine breaks down. So when it comes to soreness, especially when it’s excessive, ask yourself a question — Am I really smarter than millions of years of evolution?
The human body is, in my mind, an incredible and awe-inspiring creation that has spent eons developing the ability to adapt and respond to the dangers and stresses of life and the world around us. It gives us all sorts of information all of the time, and it’s funny how we choose to ignore the bits we just don’t want to listen to. If our bodies are doing their job when they tell us to drink some water or go to the bathroom, perhaps they are also be onto something when they tell us, “Hey, this thing hurts so don’t be so rough with it!”
So to close, just pay attention to what you feel. While dedication to a fitness goal and enthusiasm are great, more is not always better. Moderation is a great philosophy in all areas of life. And moreover, it’s not a race. You can slow down and still get where you want to go. But you’ll probably be a lot safer when you get there, and you might get to see a little more scenery on the way!
Cheers as always,