So where does one draw the line with an exercise routine? How can you tell if you should adjust your routine or you’re doing too much already? Some individuals still see progress doing the same thing day in and day out but should you? And are those people really doing the same thing day in and day out?
Let’s explore what is required prior to making adjustments and what factors around your training are important to monitor when doing so.
First off, your fitness level needs to be assessed. The best way to assess one’s fitness is by looking at each fitness category and ability. Categories include:
-Flexibility (range of motion for a particular joint i.e. touching your toes, reaching behind your back, rotating your torso, leaning back etc.) And then there is also loaded flexibility which is not usually considered. How far can you move while under resistance? Squat depth etc.
-Muscular endurance (ability of your muscles to continually produce force such as doing a maximum number of push-ups in a minute, planking for as long as possible etc. the options are endless)
-Muscular strength (force produced by muscle in a single or sub maximal bout such as a max squat or being able to perform 3 reps of a particular exercise with maximal weight)
-Cardiorespiratory (basically heart and lung) capacity and function: Heart rate at rest, during exercise, VO2 max (oxygen intake), tissue perfusion and oxygen saturation (usually at 98-100% for most people).
-Body composition (body fat testing, hydration levels etc)
Of course there are other assessments that can be done but they would have to be done in an isolated setting and certain calculations would be necessary. In addition, specificity is key.
If you participate in an endurance sport, should you be performing max lifts testing your muscular strength? Most likely not. If you play table tennis, should your shoulder and spine movement be assessed? Definitely. If you don’t participate in any sports, that does not mean you would have to pay no attention to certain elements. Rather, it would be in your best interest to optimize all areas. This is one reason why Crossfit has been so successful as it does not focus on one area of fitness and there is variation in workouts. However, the average individual will not be able to perform most Crossfit workouts and will be put off by the movements and intensities necessary. So what does that mean for you? It means you need to focus on yourself. What are you currently doing and what do you need to do to achieve the main reason you exercise? If you exercise for health reasons, that’s great but you also need to consider a bunch of factors before you decide to stick to the same workout for 25 years. Areas of focus include:
-Health status (smoker, recreational drugs, medication use etc)
-Fitness level (that’s where the assessments come in)
Let’s dive in to each of these but before we do that. I want to highlight that when you are ready to adjust your routine, there are many variables to consider but you do need to make an adjustment at some point. The question of the adjustment is based off your lifestyle and determining the readiness. But are you exercising too much? That’s where the above list comes in.
As we age, we lose muscle mass, bone mass, our organs don’t work like they used to and our hormones levels are fluctuating. We might have issues with blood sugar control or might have fatigue related to our job or we just had a child and are filled with oxytocin (more on that one day). One needs to consider the structure of their workout to prevent muscle and bone loss as well as help to optimize your hormones for better organ function. If you have adrenal hyperactivity (overuse leading to fatigue), you probably don’t want to jump into a spin class or workout for many hours in the gym.
Leading from the above, stress is a huge factor as it does impact our ability to recover so that we may actually progress in the gym. If you’re stressed, your nervous system is doing a lot of work and needs a break otherwise you will not be able to perform. Muscle tension and inflammation are things to look out for. Let’s jump to lack of sleep.
Sleeping too little prevents proper recovery from workouts and if you plan on doing an intensive workout while running on 3 hours of sleep, you’re setting yourself up for failure long term. There’s no question that lack of sleep leads to reduced physical and mental performance.
Next up, nutrition. Undereating? You may not have enough energy to get through your workouts. Timing of eating is crucial as well as consuming adequate nutrients. Endurance workouts require fuel and that will come from food but if you’re not properly ‘fuelled’, where do you think your body will get the ‘fuel’ from? You. Fat and protein breakdown begin after certain levels of depletion.
Various substances including medication, cigarettes, marijuana and athletic supplements can improve or hinder performance. For instance, some medications decrease heart rate. That will give you a false positive on your exercise performance so you would have to monitor that prior to adjusting your exercise ability. Certain supplements such as beta-alanine improve endurance. What happens if you stop using it?
With so many things to consider, I suggest keeping things basic until you’ve had the appropriate guidance. The simplest thing to do is follow the FITT principle. Frequency, intensity, type and time. Adjusting your workouts based off the frequency you do them can help with both recovery and performance. Adjusting intensity through reps, sets, duration, weight, rest periods and volume can lead to more progress but done in a periodized (fancy way of saying systematic planning in exercise programming. The type of exercise you do can be adjusted. The time you do a certain routine or bunch of exercises can also help. I tried to fit the important points in this article and it definitely became longer than anticipated but I highly recommend seeking assistance with your workouts if you think you’ve stopped making progress and are worried about whether or not you’re doing too little. Or maybe you’ve been doing too much but your progress is going backwards now? Click here to set up a meeting right away with us and we’d be glad to help.