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Why over-training will make you fat

"Please don't slash my exercise in half, I need to do it for stress relief."

"But I like doing excessive workouts because it's fun."

"I need to do cardio every morning and weights every night. My body just doesn't respond to short bursts of exercise."

Truth-bomb: I used to say these things too. But they are terrible reasons to over-train!!!

I know because I tried it. But let me tell you a world-kept secret; Nobody actually likes exercising. If you're saying you're doing it for fun, you're lying.

Sure, some people exercise because they like the feeling it gives them, and the results that come later. So they find ways to make it enjoyable (training with a friend, listening to good music, aiming for PB's, changing up the routine now and then etc), but if sitting on the couch and eating donuts could get us exactly the same result, then every single person in the world would choose the donuts.

There, I said it.

In 2013 over-training caused my body to become inflamed and swollen (see second pic from left). It took nearly 2 years to reverse the damage.

I've lost count of the number of girls that have sat in front me, told me they want to look like me and then spelt out their training regime (which is usually double or triple the amount that I do now), and then squirm when I tell them they are doing too much.

"But I'm a group fitness instructor, it's my income."

"But I like doing it, it's my ME time."

"I wouldn't know what else to do with all those hours in the day."

Coming from a group fitness instructor background, I know the truth. Between paying for music, workout gear, constantly filling the car up with petrol and attending certifications and workshops for CEC points, I ALWAYS spent more money than I made. But I didn’t care, I loved the job. 

I’m not knocking group fitness instructors because the world could do with some more hard-working people like them, but the high volume of training comes at a price.

If you are over-training, you will short-circuit your ability to recover and sabotage your chances of building muscle. Amy stays lean by doing the right amount of cardio and strength training, i.e. she does less but does it better!

To be honest, it doesn't matter which one of these quotes resonates with you. If any of them resonate with you, then maybe you’re just like me. Deep down inside you’re probably just scared that if you stop training so much, you’ll get fat.

If you're an athlete or training for an event, then there will be times in your life when you can’t avoid high volume exercise, and that’s fine. But don't just do it for the sake of it and then use the competition or event as a scapegoat. Because if you continue to operate on excessive exercise and minimal calories, then there is going to be a sling-shot effect. I know because it happened to me in 2013. Your body will become accustomed to functioning on adrenaline and not much else, and when you take away the adrenaline, it will be replaced by body fat.

My body didn't start responding properly until I stopped over-training and started eating more food. More food + Less Exercise = Better Results

It's a normal process, when you’ve been in a calorie deficit for so long and now you are resting. Your body is gleefully gobbling up all the precious extra energy it no longer needs to expend.

It hurts to say it, but if you’re an over-trainer like I was, then there will come a day when you won’t be able to do it anymore. You cannot avoid it. You cannot side step it. It will only be a matter of time before you need to retire from excessive exercise due to injury, illness, or even age. And the longer you put it off, the longer it will take for your body to get back to zero.

I won a Universe title by only doing 4-5x 45 minute workouts a week. No more.

If you’re a chronic over-trainer like I was, your brain has probably learnt to rely on the copious amounts of exercise to release endorphins and make you feel happy. On the days that you don't train, you might feel a little lethargic and flat. In other words, what started out as a healthy hobby has somewhere along the line turned into an addiction.

I never claimed to be an expert and I’m only speaking from experience, but after 6 years of excessive exercise, it took at least 12 months for me to feel right in the head again. I was miserable and moody and to top it all off, my body shape had gone soft and I felt like all those years of hard work were for nothing.

But instead of going back to my old ways, I got busy doing what I should have been doing all along; building a strong metabolism.

Chronically over-training will never build you a metabolism that burns and churns calories efficiently. One by one, your non-vital organs will start to shut down (bye-bye menstrual cycle), your fluctuating energy levels will start to dictate your nutrition intake (hello junk food), and you will constantly feel like you’re treading water.

Every time you go back to your old ways, you are simply setting yourself further and further back. You can keep telling yourself that you need to do it, that it's for stress relief, but excessive exercise is also a form of stress. And eventually the day will come where your body physically CAN NOT do it.

And what then?

Surely you'd like to settle down one day, have a family (if your ovaries are still functioning), spend time with your children (they will become your priority over exercise you know), or even go on a big overseas holiday without obsessing about exercise... Right?

If this is you, don't beat yourself up about it. Just recognise what you need to do, and find someone to help you.

Do less but do it better, just like Gladysha. Your body will thank you for it.

In 2012, I was a chronic over-trainer.
In 2013, I suffered from the sling-shot effect.
In 2014-2019, I focused on building a metabolism.

And I never looked back.

Till next time,

Trish xoxo

PS: Every time you share this article, a chronic over-trainer somewhere in the world says "Thank you, this is exactly what I needed to hear".

PPS: Read my trainer profile here

Too many women focus on cardio to lose weight. Alicia stays lean by using the right amount of cardio and strength training to increase her metabolic rate.

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