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How much exercise is too much?

The pumping season has arrived: this is the time of the year when everyone suddenly remembers that the summer is almost here and they need to pump it up stat for those fast approaching beach vacations.
As a fitness instructor, I know that the busiest time of the year in my classes is usually the months of April and May. Any personal trainer can tell you about the increasing number of members showing up in the gym during these months. The fear remains, however, that these trainees might fall into the pattern of over-training. People usually about whether they are getting enough exercise but no one would dare say they are working out too much. Understandably, over-training does not seem as unhealthy as it might be, but you need to look at this routine from a different angle.
“Over-training is very common among trainees this time of the year,” Ramy Ali the gym room supervisor in Step Center says. “Young men come to the gym thinking they will train extensively for a couple of months then walk shirtless on the beach looking like a bodybuilder. They are wrong. Gaining the body of your dreams needs at least six months of a well-planned exercise routine, not to mention the right food habits to go along with it,” Ali adds. This regime includes cardio like running and jogging for an hour twice a week, as well as a half-hour cardio workout that is integrated into the weight training program, Ali says.
Over-training does not come without side effects. Typical signs of over-training include fatigue, headaches, short-temper, loss of appetite, and a decrease in performance in the gym that may lead to dissatisfaction and the inability to finish a workout program. The final sign is weight loss, which might seem like the ultimate goal, but in fact, you are not burning fat now but merely the layers of muscles you are building. You are basically reducing the mass of your muscles and harming yourself.
Sometimes people do not understand the harm they are enforcing on their bodies and tend to push the limits, says Manar el-Kady, head of the group fitness department in Samia Allouba fitness centers. She frequently sees people who just registered for a gym membership attending multiple classes in the first 24 hours. “That could be harmful for them both mentally and physically,” Manar says, “it is amazing that a client decides to change their lifestyles into a more active one, but coming to the gym three hours daily in the first week after never doing any active training might harm the client badly. You will feel tired by the end of the week and most probably will stop coming to the gym. You will suffer from muscle pain and that will cause you to lose your motivation to exercise ever again.”
Manar usually advices some of her clients not to attend fitness classes as often as they do. She even asks some of them to visit the gym instead. “Some clients who are overweight or extreme beginners might benefit more from the tailored workout routines in the gym rather than attending fitness classes that might not be right for them,” says Manar. “Sometimes I talk to them and ask them to gradually increase the intensity of their workout rather than hurting themselves with over-training,” she adds.
Some clients, however, will not listen to the instructor when he asks them to ‘take it easy.’ Some female clients come a month before their wedding date to lose weight. They work out viciously and the instructor sometimes has to convey the truth, that this is a fitness class, not the office of a miracle worker.
Ramy faces the same problem with his trainees, but he usually works things out with them. “I usually take a look at my fitness regime and make sure I did not go wrong in planning it before talking to them, then I sit with the client and talk things through about this fitness routine. Sometimes adjusting eating habits helps balance the workout,” he says. He, however, insists that he needs to force some clients to take a day or two off in the week. “We are the people that are trusted to pick the right exercise regime for you; so you better listen to us,” says the personal trainer.
Finally, over-training is not a conscious decision that you make. “I usually train on a daily basis but it really depends on the week,” says Erin, a fitness buff who has a perfectly toned body. “I don’t mean to push myself and I usually hate to over-train, sometimes I get into the rush of the workout and I don’t really realize that I am over-training and when I figure out that I pushed my limits too far, I actually feel bad.”


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