Over-exercising: Too Much of a Good Thing


Edited by: KELSEY CRUZ

As young women, we are often being sold the idea of the “perfect” body. Look at this month’s magazines, and you will see at least two (if not more) promising the inside scoop on how to achieve a flawless celebrity body. Have you ever looked at photos of an actress and wished that your body looked more like hers? Over the years, I have spent more time aspiring to have my body look like someone else’s instead of focusing on how to make the most of what I already have.

That being said, how attainable is the “perfect” body – the ones we pine over and guys lust after? I talked to Hayley McGowan, a British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) certified personal trainer, about whether the celebrity body is within a woman’s reach.

“I would have to disagree that these women have unattainable bodies (as they have attained them), but their lifestyle is not conducive to the lifestyle that most of us like to live,” McGowan explained. “We could look like that, but the effort needed to achieve that body is very unrealistic – not unattainable – but unrealistic.”

So what goes into achieving the magazine-cover-body?

“I could not honestly answer what every celebrity’s workout consists of as I am sure they all vary,” McGowan said. “One thing that I can guarantee is that a young woman in Hollywood takes very good care of herself and is very aware of what she puts into her body. You won’t find Jessica Biel sitting on a patio with friends drinking a beer and eating nachos. She will be the one with a glass of sparkling water and that is all.

“If I were to guess what a typical Cameron Diaz workout was, it is probably 45–60 minutes a day of strength work, ropes, medicine balls, plyometric exercises, kettle bells, dumbbells, and body weight,” McGowan said. “She probably also does 45 – 60 minutes each day of intense cardio – perhaps an advanced spin class, a hard hike up a mountain, or a 5-mile tempo run – and then finishes her workout with a good stretching or yoga session.

“But, if you take someone like Gwyneth Paltrow (aside from when she is having to train to be in tip-top shape for a role) who is on such a limited diet and you can tell by her photos that she is very thin, her workouts most likely consist of Pilates, yoga and very light cardio.”

Between internships, jobs, and crazy class schedules, few of us have the time to work out every day for an hour, let alone two. However, even after acknowledging our busy schedules, many of us still internalize (or externalize with girlfriends over salads) the idea that celebrity bodies are the ones we should be striving towards. For some of us, the idea can manifest itself beyond thoughts and conversation into full-blown weight obsessions through eating disorders or over-exercising.

Which gym rat do you embody – the one who exercises because of the way it makes you feel and look or the one who calculates how many miles to run in order to burn off last week’s pizza slice? Are you constantly counting calories and weighing yourself morning, afternoon, and night? If you aren’t sure what kind of exerciser you are, your body will tell you.

“Signs of over-training include (but are not limited to) being exhausted but being unable to sleep, waking up with night sweats, moodiness, an increase in your resting heart rate, loss of appetite, anxiety, exercising at a very low intensity but being unable to keep your heart rate down, and finding it difficult to recover between workouts.” McGowan said.

What’s more, according to an article on livestrong.com, over-exercising can also strain your heart and have long-term negative effects on your body like osteoporosis. Over-exercising can not only affect you physically, it can also damage you psychologically.

“It is over-exercising when it starts to interfere with your life,” McGowan explained. “You cancel social engagements because you have to work out or other things like work and family – which should have a high priority in your life – get put on the back burner for exercise.”

If you are suffering from overtraining as part of your school’s or trainer’s workout program, you should talk to your coach about adjusting your workouts to help you recover. However, if you are not an athlete and feel your life is being affected by over-exercising, you should talk to someone about it.

“If you have the resources to seek counseling, that would be my first piece of advice,” McGowan suggested. “I find a lot of people who are over-exercising are running away from something else that they don’t want to deal with, and until they figure out what it is that needs fixing, they will have a very tough time dealing with the over-exercising issue.”

Most importantly, remember that you only have one body for the rest of your life. Ladies, love your body; don’t punish it!


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One Comment on “Over-exercising: Too Much of a Good Thing”

  1. Carmen
    August 12, 2012 at 11:12 am #

    Love the great tips! Spot on that sometimes I do feel exhausted, but find it difficult to sleep. Now i know the reason. Great article!

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