Are you spending too much time at the gym? How do you know? Is it even possible to be working out too much?
This discussion requires a preamble; Every fitness program is different and is dictated by the goals and needs of the individual.
A big guy, the kind of fella that wasn’t a jiu jitsu lightweight even as a youngster, will likely have different goals than the jiu jitsu competitor across the gym who has spent his entire career in the lighter weight class brackets.
That big fella could very well be wanting to add mass, muscle and strength to better use during his competitive bouts.
Although he wants to remain flexible, his routine probably won’t have a ton of cardio, some – but not much. Our career lightweight on the other hand, wants to continually get stronger but must keep an eye on the scale for weigh-ins.
There is going to be much more cardio involved in his fitness program.
Apparently these are two different body types and two different people with different personal goals but what does that have to do with spending too much time in the gym?
Program + Personal Goals = Gym Time
As a personal trainer, you learn that there are often two to ten ways to get it done, whatever “it’ is – weight-loss, muscle gain, increased strength or improving endurance.
How you get there depends on the person. Simply note some of the regulars you see at your gym.
Did you notice how long they spend in the gym, how often they go?
Their stories and what they do will tell you everything you need to know.
That one guy who is in outstanding shape, friendly but always about the business of hitting his routine, have you seen this guy? He is in the gym four or five days a week.
If this person is on an iso routine for example, you’ll probably see him spend no more than forty minutes on the weights and he only hits one or two muscle groups that day.
Then he probably spends 20 to 40 minutes on some cardio work. That seems aggressive but reasonable, right?
How about the one young lady who is obviously fit and very lean. It does seem, however, that she must be killing herself to maintain that physique.
Over the course of time you’ve noticed that she must live at the gym, you’ve even noticed that she is there when you arrive and still hitting her routine after you leave.
She must be over-doing it, right? Unless she is preparing for an upcoming triathlon.
Finally, remember our big fella from earlier? Don’t be surprised if he is only making an appearance 3 or 4 days a week, for people trying to gain mass, size and strength this might not be uncommon.
Individuals with this type of routine are going to commonly see more rest days built into their program.
Allowing your muscles time and rest to actually heal and grow is a necessity, so a heavy lifting program will be structured around less reps more weight and plenty of rest days.
Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten our question and we are actually getting closer to the answer.
From these typical examples it is evident that there is such thing as a one-size-fits-all program based on body types, athletic endeavors or individual goals.
In effect, this truth actually makes it easier to determine if you are spending too little or too much time in the gym.
Tips to Optimize Your Workout Time
Despite each of us having such unique and individual needs, tips for optimizing the amount of time used working out apply to everyone.
The following 3 tips will help you to get the most out of your program and prevent you from hurting your body and your progress…
Follow the Plan
Your trainer, your own studies and input from others you trust have resulted in you building the perfect fitness program to help you obtain your goals. Now, follow it!
When we hit that fitness wall,stop seeing results and become impatient we often we often want to vary our programs.
That is a problem, for several reasons. First, this distorts data and makes it almost impossible for your trainer to gauge your progress and to determine what is and isn’t working.
Secondly, this can actually work against the program goals (which are your goals) and finally, this can potentially cause injury from mild strains to more serious issues.
Follow the plan, communicate with your trainer and trust the process.
Panic, worry and frustration are our enemies. They make us want to add another set to our routine or another ten pounds to that lift.
They make us question our progress and slow our progress. The art of jiu jitsu is renown for teaching and training athletes to “relax” in the midst of combat.
In the same way this keeps competitors mentally focused and engaged, it also allows for improved mental focus during your workout which results in a more effective routine.
Stress is also know to cause havoc on the body and that isn’t something conducive to you getting the most out of your fitness program.
Listen to Your Body
Regardless of how amazing your trainers are, there isn’t any other person in the world who knows your body as intimately as you and no one else can hear your body as clearly as you.
Follow your program, don’t push the program either physically or mentally and listen to your body.
Only you know exactly how your normal muscle soreness and stiffness feels, which means only you will know when it doesn’t feel normal.
Barring anything structural, this may often be an indication of nothing more than a muscle group simply needing more rest.
If you are talking to your trainer, they can adjust your program accordingly and more importantly avoid potential injury.
The short answer is, yes you can be spending too much time working out and it can have very negative consequences.
Realistically most of us are not going to be in danger of spending too much time in the gym, at least not on that level.
Yet, we can deter our progress and do more harm than good by thinking “more is better” when we are in the gym.
Sometimes less is more. How much less or how much more, however, depends on you.