More Women are Discovering Their Limits, and Ignoring Them.
Nearly every athlete has been at that point at the gym where you just can’t seem to do more, either you’re exhausted or something hurts a way that it shouldn’t. On those days many women have pushed themselves through their pains and exhaustion to finish the set or even the workout.
Regardless of your goals is there a point where you put yourself above the routine and give your body a break? And is it really so bad to do so?
We can all appreciate the change in mindset from the 90’s anorexic thin to this year’s “fit is the new thin.” Encouraging women to be strong rather than frail is a big step in the right direction, the problem lies with the mindset of so many women and how the fitness world dictates how building strength is to be done.
Fit is the New Thin
While the mindset of starving yourself while running to burn calories has finally begun to fade, the new fad of fit being the new thin has taken over.
For many this is great, it gives you control over your body and your growth and helps women build confidence and strength. The problem lies with the fact that many women aren’t starting the right way and have increased the potential to get hurt because of training errors.
The issues that they are seeing are mainly due to over training, overuse, lack of nutrition, and lack of care of injuries. These all lead to worse effects when untreated, which happens more often than not.
Even most of the few women who do end up successfully diagnosed with a sports related injury are likely to go back on the field too early and potentially causing themselves more harm.
This affects your overall diet and training in 2 ways: one, if you mess up again you will spend more time trying to recover than you will actually be working out. That could kill your gains. Train smart. And two, the stress of trying to train to rebuild that strength or lose that weight too quickly can increase cortisol levels and lead to potential overtraining which will 100% kill your results.
I’m not here to tell you to stop training because you look like a man, but that your body won’t respond the same way as a man’s, and if you want to be as strong as him, you have to do it right.
The consequences are long and they are terrifying and it all leads back to the lack of proper education and the mindset of pushing through the pain.
So, as before with your diet, in order to fix a problem we must first explore what the problem is…
Overtraining Will Kill Your Results.
Overtraining is the act of pushing your body beyond what it is capable of and exhausting it beyond what a normal rest day could recover from.
More often than not this comes from athletes who believe that in order to perform better or hit their goals faster they have to workout more often and push their bodies to the brink.
This way of thinking is prevalent in every part of athleticism, whether you’re a football player or a cheerleader or a runner. Intense programming with a low calorie diet and little rest can lead to serious injury and with overtraining symptoms your body may not bounce back from injury as fast.
This issue is especially prevalent in female athletes for two main reasons. One: they can be more obsessive over gym time, the scale, and body image. This isn’t to say that men are not, but that because of the need to keep up with current beauty standards many women will spend too much time at the gym and working too hard for the goals they are working to achieve.
Two: most programs aren’t created with women in mind. And especially when that woman is relatively new to the world of working out, they are especially susceptible. As I’ve said before, this isn’t to say they can’t see the same results as men do with the right kind of work. But that work needs to be guided with a woman in mind.
These two issues can have lasting and harmful effects on women and can prevent real fat loss and muscle gains to be made.
Just to name a few.
These are all caused by various parts of overtraining, but probably the largest culprit is an increase in cortisol levels.
Cortisol: Much Better in Moderation.
Cortisol has been nicknamed “the Stress Hormone” for a reason, and that’s because it is the hormone that responds to any stress your body feels.
The problem (as I outlined in my previous article: Stress Series Part 1) is that we have moved past the lifestyle of acute stress and into a world where nearly everyone endures chronic stress. This is manifested in work, relationships, and overall lifestyle.
We are stressed.
And the problem here lies with the fact that while many of us go to the gym to relieve the stresses of the day, many are experiencing a spike in stress because of overtraining. In this sense you are feeling the effects of full body chronic stress by the way of an overtrained, and frankly, exhausted body.
“The role of hormones in the overtraining syndrome is still not fully understood. Stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, have been shown to be increased in overtrained athletes compared with controls. Salivary cortisol levels (reflecting free cortisol levels) in a group of swimmers were significantly higher in stale underperforming athletes, and this correlated with the depressed mood state. A low testosterone:cortisol ratio has been suggested as a marker of the overtraining syndrome, reflecting a change in the balance of anabolism to catabolism.” (2)
In every bit of exercise you do you will have a spike in cortisol, and if that exercise is regular then many studies have seen a decrease in overall cortisol levels produced. Many athletes are better able to regulate their levels and appreciate the benefits of a healthy routine.
But many are also pushing it too far. The problem here is the lack of proper rest athletes are using to deal with the stress that exercise puts on their bodies.
And the results show.
While those athletes who work in moderation to slowly build endurance, strength, and speed will see the full benefits, those who don’t usually see an increase in fat retention, stress, and potential for heart disease.
Much of the progress you worked for is lost when symptoms of overtraining and high cortisol production start to take over.
So How Do We Avoid Overtraining?
Fortunately for all body types there are a few simple rules that, when followed, can prevent injury, overtraining, and a boost in cortisol.
Rule #1: Use programs you love. If you hate running, find different forms of cardio. Dance, rowing, swimming are all great options. If you hate lifting heavy then find something where you will use mostly bodyweight but help you build muscle all the same, rock climbing, yoga, and swimming (again) are all fantastic. Your program is much less stressful if you actually enjoy it.
Rule #2: EAT FOOD. No, seriously. As I outlined in my previous article, and earlier on in this one, you HAVE TO EAT. And you have to eat well. If you go to the gym for an hour a day you will want to up your calorie intake by about 200 if you plan to maintain weight. If you plan to lose weight you still only want to be at a 200-300 calorie deficit, if you have a coach tracking your intake then be sure to follow their guidelines but inform them of being excessively exhausted or if you stop losing weight.
Rule #3: Use proper supplements. Make sure they provide clean energy without unnecessary calories. That’s one of the benefits of shopping with GymVixen, you can be sure that all the supplements were created with women in mind. The BCAA, Recovery, and Whey will be your best friends regardless of your goals. They help burn fat and build strength and prevent injury and overtraining.
Rule #4: REST REST REST REST REST. This shouldn’t have to be included, rest is vital for being healthy in any sense. When you’re working out you should know when you need to take a rest day and when you need to change muscle groups. Sleep 8+ hours. 48 hours between each day working out a muscle group (for example: Monday leg day, Wednesday leg day, Saturday leg day). And rest 30s-3m between sets depending on the scale.
There’s no reason you should feel like crap when you workout, and as long as you’re resting, using proper form, and eating right you should have no reason to deal with anything other than amazing gains.