Are you training within your threshold?
Updated: Aug 31, 2021
Most of us do exercise to build the body stronger, but how do we know if it is doing the opposite and tearing us down? You need to know the status of your nervous system, otherwise you won't know what kind of training adaptations you are getting. For many, increasing their body's thresholds and tolerance levels to stress will allow them perform at high levels. Many people think it is a good thing to push themselves as hard as they can, otherwise it is not worth their time. Others don't work out at all or one day decide to run a 10k tomorrow after 9 months of no exercise. Progression seems to be the biggest missing piece in exercise programs of most people. What is an exercise threshold? How do you know how much to push?
Everyone may enter a workout at a different starting point, which is why "one size fits all" program are so limiting and potentially dangerous. Exercise can be considered a stressor and we all have an operating window that we currently live with. There is a minimum amount of activity we need to do or we will start atrophying and shrinking that window. There is also a maximum amount of stress that the body can currently tolerate or it wills start to break down as well. This "operating window" is everything in between the minimum and maximum thresholds, and it can be expanded or shrink depending on various factors. Just some of these factors that can influence this window are sleep, emotional stress, physical stressors, recovery, diet, injuries, medications, etc.
Overexercising is extremely dangerous to do. Many people think exercising more is what will give them the body they desire. The way you eat changes how you look the most. Exercise should create a healthy body so that you can participate in life, but you have to maintain your joints in order to be healthy. Muscles are what hold the joints together and keep them in proper alignment. Overtraining can decrease longevity, decrease performance and be really hard on the body. Most don't worry about the health of their joints until they are broken. You can't undo abuse or overdoing it, which is why progression and being intelligent in your approach matters. Consider where you are starting at the beginning of every single workout every single day. Here are some basic tips on how to stay within your thresholds while also trying to expand that operating window moving forward:
Constantly re-assess where you are before each workout: What is your current total stress level (physical and mental), how much sleep did you get, have you gotten sufficient recovery from prior workouts, have your eaten enough to properly fuel your workout, and what is your energy level today, etc.
A guess to your minimum threshold is that is might rank as a 5 out of 10 or 6 out of 10 on a subjective scale. While your maximum could be closer to a 7 and possibly up to 9 for an advanced exerciser, it is never a 10.
Can you control the movements you are doing with perfect form? if you cannot,, then you either need to drop the weight, modify the exercise, or just stop.
You should feel good after your workout, if not better. Feeling like crap afterwards is not a badge of honor. There is no good soreness.
Your posture should feel the same or better after your workout.
Your overall energy should be the same or better
Your "flexibility" or range of motion in your joints should be the same or better. Getting "tight" is not a natural response to a workout; it means that something was exceeded and the body is now protecting the joints. Stretching is also not the answer.
You should not feel pain during your workout. Always operate within ranges of motion that are pain free.
Your exercise should not cause cramping, aches or pain, and you shouldn't be more than a little sore.
Accept modifications to exercises offered by your trainer. We can see your form better than you can, and that is why we are there. Please take our advice.
Over-stressing your body and not expecting consequences is like overspending on your credit card and never expecting the bill to arrive.