Today’s guest post is courtesy of Amanda. I know that sometimes I find myself wondering if I do “too much” when it comes to working out. Can you relate?
Take the recent story about CrossFit and acute rhabdomyolysis. CrossFit, popular among people who like to push themselves to their limits, sometimes pushes them so far that their muscle cells explode. Rhabdo, as it’s called, swells the limbs, places extra stress on the kidneys as they try to filter out muscle cell waste, and destroys the overworked area of your body, leaving it unable to ever develop muscle tone again.
This means that avid, driven exercisers often experience the worst-case scenario: in addition to the discomfort and cost of rhabdo treatment, they end up with “semi-swollen jiggly tissue” where their muscles once were. They can’t strength-train that away; in fact, they’re often not supposed to exercise that area at all.
So, once again: it’s all about moderation. Your job is to use exercise to become fit and healthy, not to achieve an unattainable goal like zero-percent body fat. There’s a difference between pushing yourself to do 100 sit-ups or to run a 5K, and pushing yourself so far that your muscle cells explode.
It’s a shame we even have to talk about that difference, but our current culture values competitiveness and ranking over anything else, and encourages people to go just that little bit further. Your favorite workout app has a gamification component, right? When you complete a workout, it tells you if you’ve done better or worse than your last time, and then suddenly everyone on Facebook knows and is liking your status. Meanwhile, our culture of continuous images and social sharing means everyone gets to see that one unflattering photo of your upper arms, the one that sends you back into the gym for another 100 reps.
The truth is that excess is not sustainable, and moderation is the only way to achieve life-long good health. That’s moderation in everything - a little running, a little rest; a little kale, a little cake; even caffeine from a morning latte or the relaxing feeling from nicotine (though if you want to start running/living healthier, you should try switching to a smoke-free e-cigarette). In fact, we should just strip “vice” from the vocabulary. Humans are going to eat cake, we’re going to indulge, and we’re going to spend some nights cuddled up on the couch instead of running. This is part of your natural, already-there perfection. Spend too much time trying to chase the other perfection – those perfectly sculpted abs – and your body is going to literally rebel, as too many CrossFitters have found out.
How do you know when you’ve found that balance? It’s the difference between a pleasant ache after a work out, and a painful one. A delicious piece of cake and that heavy, gutted feeling you get after a big meal. A night on the couch, and the sluggish feeling of not having exercised. It’s right there for you to see, if you’re willing to drop the quest for internet points, or the perfect bicep, to pay attention.
How do you keep things in moderation? Have you ever exercised past your limits and hurt yourself? What about going too far in the wrong direction and over-indulging? Let us know in the comments.