Commander's Fit Tip: How much is too much?

  • Published
  • By Col. Michael Panarisi
While not necessarily a foregone conclusion, it's pretty likely that the holidays are driving some interruptions in your workout routine.

Historically, a wave of New Year's resolutions end up as some interesting spikes (and crashes!) in workout facility usage rates, both on our bases and at the local gyms.

These irregular entries and exits in the loads and stresses you apply to your muscles, joints and connective tissues typically result in a predictable but preventable negative impact on your progress.

So rather than repave that familiar road, let's look at what we can do to keep our eyes on the fitness prize and find ourselves in a better place next February.

The first order of business is to accept the fact that irregularity is a big driver in the injuries that force us to back off, take extended breaks or ultimately give up on a routine all together.

It's exceedingly difficult to resist the temptation to "make up for lost time" by increasing the intensity or duration of a workout when we could not keep to our plan.

It's a big trap.

Inevitably, we end up doing way more harm than good, and the resulting setbacks are much more detrimental than the missed workout ever represented.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but the reality is if you missed your workout for a week, you have to alter and in fact, trim down your routine the following week.

If you were planning a five-mile run on Monday, you will get back on track much more quickly if you retreat to a much less challenging event and ease your way back in. Maybe hit the elliptical on Monday, the bike on Wednesday, and get that run in on Friday.

The same applies to weight training. The week after a layoff is the worst time to check your progress with a "record-setting lift" or a few extra sets/reps.

In this case, "no pain, no gain" is horribly bad advice.

A layoff is a great opportunity to refine your technique, review your lift/rep intervals, and restore your form. Save the "heavy stuff" for a few days down the road.

It's well-known in the community that it's much more common to miss our goals due to over-exertion, not under-exertion.

The injury/setback/forced layoff/return to work/re-aggravate cycle will slow you down much more than shaving 15 minutes off your planned spin bike event, or substituting a brisk walk for your run event in the first few days of a return to your routine.

But if you do find yourself trapped in an over-use spiral, take stock in the fact that this is the time to "slow down to speed up."

Remember, the fastest and most reliable method to reach your goals is a long series of incremental gains, not a loose collection of "leaps."

So keep the steps small, and if you get out of cycle, enjoy a few "recovery day" events to get back on schedule. The tissue, joints, and time you save will be your own!