To rewrite one of my favorite movie lines, “I know you can be over[trained], and I know you can be under[trained], but can you ever just be [trained]?”*
Human nature lends itself to extremes in so many ways. A season of life can knock us off course and before we know it months or years have gone by and we’ve gained weight, lost stamina, and can no longer do the things we love. Then, the day comes. We’re going to get our life back. We restrict calories, we cleanse, drink funny tea, and commit to exercising 2 hours a day. And then we’re starving, tired, bitter, and probably injured, so the cycle starts all over. Yikes.
So, yes, you can be undertrained. In fact, it’s an issue plaguing many of the worlds developed societies today. We sit, we drive, we watch, we scroll, and as we age we lose the ability to do things like get down and up without groaning, bend and flex our knees, and pick up objects off of the ground without injuring our backs. We’re often so overfed (yet undernourished) and under-exercised that metabolic syndrome and its conditions are claiming the life or quality of life of more children and adults each year.
To the opposite extreme, you can be over-trained. You can take so little rest and recovery that your attempts at health lead to injury from repetitive movements, unsafe practices, or rapid muscle breakdown. Over-training sometimes comes from or leads to an unhealthy body image or the insatiable drive to reach unattainable or unhealthy goals.
So how can you train to be fit and healthy for your lifestyle and lifespan? Here are two simple tips.
First, have goals that relate to things you want to do, rather than the way you want to look. Set a goal to do 10 pull-ups or lift 100 lbs. Then work with a coach to set a safe game plan for getting there. These types of goals are great because there will be tons of small victories to celebrate along the way, and if you push too hard, you’ll feel the progress slipping and you’ll know it’s time to rest.
Second, nourishment and recovery are essential. To train your body for longevity and quality of life you can’t just feed it, you have to fuel it. Eat food that grows from the ground. Eat protein from clean and reliable sources. Eat in portions that sustain your energy and ability to exercise, but avoid over-eating. Sleep! Get those 7.5-8 hours a night, or nap if your schedule allows it. Plan rest days into your exercise routine so that you take them, but don’t allow them to pile up.
To know how to do all of these things in right proportion, listen to what your body is telling you! Do you feel awful, lethargic, or sick after certain foods, while others give you energy and make your skin glow? Eat the latter! Your body sends you lots of signals about what it needs and appreciates, so pay attention and treat it well, because you only get this one!
*Did you know it? Then we’re meant to be friend. The movie is 10 Things I Hate About You.