Yes. You can work out too hard for a whole slew of reasons.
The NY Times focuses on one of these reasons in an article entitled: “As Workouts Intensify, a Harmful Side Effect Grows More Common“. One woman highlighted in the article suffered some serious consequences from what should have been just a hard day at the spin studio.
“Over the next two days, her legs throbbed with excruciating pain, her urine turned a dark shade of brown, and she felt nauseated. Eventually she went to a hospital, where she was told she had rhabdomyolysis, a rare but life-threatening condition often caused by extreme exercise. It occurs when overworked muscles begin to die and leak their contents into the bloodstream, straining the kidneys and causing severe pain.” Ouch. This does not sound good.
So were you right all along and all of this workout nonsense was a lie? Is sitting on the couch safer? Not really. You should “workout” or exercise everyday if possible. You just need to remember two things first:
1) Fitness – what am I trying to get fit for? Do I want to play with my kids/grandkids without huffing and puffing? Do I want to ride my bike in the summer charity ride each year? Do I want to do better in summer ultimate or do I want to win my age category and some fitness-related sporting event. Have a serious chat with yourself to figure out where you should start your journey back to fitness. If you are looking to compete at a high level no matter what your age, consider getting a coach to help you build a plan and recognize problems and injuries.
2) Adapt – take your time getting into your new regime. Work your way up slowly, perhaps adding 10% or less of weight, resistance, time etc to your work outs each week. Take at least a day off a week to recover with some walking or yoga. Listen to your body and cut back when you are aware of over training symptoms such as elevated heart rate while working out (higher than usual), elevated heart rate when you wake up in the morning (take it every morning for a week to get a baseline) or are you having trouble sleeping? More ornery than usual? (Be honest).
So workout good. Workout too much and too soon less good.
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Here is a recording of one of the best commencement speeches around save maybe Steve Jobs’ at Stanford. The speaker is Naval Admiral William McRaven, a former commander of Special Operations and a Navy Seal.
What other great commencement speeches or for that matter TED talks etc have you seen that you found motivating?
Ned Overend is a legend in endurance sports. And, at age 61 he keeps on competing at an amazingly high level.
Here is a list of some of his accomplishments over the years: 1) 6 time NORBA U.S. Mountain Biking Champion in the late 80s and early 90s. 2) UCI World Mountain Biking Champion in 1990. 3) 2 time XTERRA World Champion in 1998 and 1999. 4) UCI Masters Cyclecross World Champion in 2012. 5) 2015 USA Cycling National Fat Bike Champion.
Earlier this year Outside Magazine did a profile of Overend that is worth a read. If you are short for time, however, one key aspect of the piece was Overend’s list of the 10 Commandments of Lifelong Fitness.
10 Commandments of Lifelong Fitness
- Mix it up – Cross train with other activities aside from your main focus. Do different things in different seasons like switching to snow shoeing in the winter from running.
- Make fitness fun – Avoid too much structure in your schedule. Give yourself permission to have fun.
- Never lose fitness – It is much harder to get your fitness back as you get older so don’t lose it.
- Pay attention to potential injuries – If you notice a pain somewhere, don’t ignore it. Slow down or take the day off and go get a massage.
- Recover harder then you train – High intensity workouts are still good but high intensity recovery needs to follow.
- Understand the science – Understand what your body is going through and why.
- Know your gear – If you want to stay competitive and not get hurt, you need to understand your gear, you need to maintain it and you need to replace it when it is unsafe or worn down.
- Stay positive – Getting older brings new challenges so stay positive and don’t give up.
- Be in control – Losing control often leads to injury and you can’t afford injuries and lay offs as much when you are older.
- Focus on yourself – Compete with yourself more and with others less. We are all in different situations, with more or less time to train and different genetics.
If all of this sounds familiar it is because Overend subscribes to the training tenets of coach Joe Friel.
“Ned lives what I preach,” says Joe Friel, 72, masters coach and author of Fast After 50. “He’s always been a fan of short workouts with high intensity.” Whittled down, the recipe for success as a geezer is this: 1) Decrease volume and increase intensity. 2) Recover, recover, recover. 3) Don’t stop training, ever; you can retain much of your VO2 max as you age, but once you lose it, it’s a lot harder to get it back. “When you’re 60, you can’t take a month off at the end of the season, have a good time like younger athletes can,” Friel says. “There’s an accelerated loss of fitness. Take Greg LeMond, for example—he just quit. Hung it up. Ned never did that.”
There is more on Joe Friel here in another BoomerangFit post.
What do you do to stay fit after 50?
In a great video called Never Stop, sponsored by The North Face, Jimmy Chin ponders the meaning of life. Jimmy Chin is an excellent skier, climber and photographer. Somehow Chin caught the skiing and climbing bug despite growing up in Mankato, MN and attending Carleton College in Northfield, MN. I also went to Carleton and can attest to the lack of any hills or mountains in Minnesota.
Now Chin is a North Face sponsored athlete who among many other accomplishments has climbed to the top of Everest and then skied down. You read that right. He has had photos published in Outside Magazine and National Geographic and also recently produced, directed, shot and starred in a stunning film called Meru, about his climb with two friends to the top of a foreboding peak in the Karakoram mountains between India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China. This film won the U.S. Documentary Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival and is definitely worth watching.
So what does Jimmy Chin think about the meaning of life:
“I guess I have always been driven to see what happens if I really throw myself at something. I learned early on that unless you really do that you will never find out. And, I think that would be really sad if I didn’t ever find my true potential. In a way, this is almost like the meaning of life. Finding a purpose and then pushing yourself in that space no matter what it is.”
“There are two great risks in life: risking too much and risking too little. The one that scares me the most is risking too little because you are given this great opportunity and you should make the post of it.”
This sounds a lot like the Ancient Greek concept of Arete. According to Wikipedia, “Arete is frequently associated with bravery, but more often with effectiveness. The man or woman of Arete is a person of the highest effectiveness; they use all their faculties—strength, bravery and wit—to achieve real results” or perhaps we could call it reaching their potential.
Are you reaching your potential? Are you throwing yourself at anything? Are you risking too much or too little?