Too Much High Intensity?

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Sherri_Gorge_Yoga_42017With the popularity of CrossFit, Bootcamps, Tabata and other high intensity formats, clients may believe that the only way to train is at a high intensity. However, that’s just not the case!

I’ve been in the fitness industry for almost 30 years and I’ve seen it all and can pretty much guarantee that if your clients only train at a high intensity, it will lead to illness, injury and/or burnout.

Of course, that is not what you want for your clients or your schedule.

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Here are some points to consider/remember:

  • What happened to the warm-up?

    • Physiologically, we know that the body does not do well ramping up quickly from a resting state to a high intensity zone. And yet, time and time again, I hear of programs requiring participants to do burpees, jump squats, power lunges, jumping jacks and various other high impact, high intensity movements during the warm-up! The purpose of the warm-up is to gradually get the blood flowing, slowly increase the demands on the heart and lungs, warm-up the muscles, lubricate the joints, and activate the energy systems. The warm-up should begin low-impact, low-load and low intensity practicing the movements you will do during the workout for about 6-12 minutes.
  • Is it necessary to go hard and race every workout?

    • It is common for people who have bought into high intensity training to make every workout hard. It doesn’t have to be this way. Even elite level athletes go really hard only a few times per week. It is far more effective to encourage your clients to mix up their training intensities and durations during the week. Ask clients to go short and hard for some workouts, and have them do longer and easier/moderate intensity and duration workouts the other days of the week. Clients should train all of their energy systems! If they go hard all the time, they will be more likely to get hurt or sick. Plus it’s much more likely that they will burnout. It’s hard for clients to maintain motivation when they feel like they have to race and go really hard at each workout.
  • Did we forget effective progression?

    • If your clients are just getting started with an exercise program, they should not be performing high intensity exercises. Build a base for a couple months first. Take the time to teach them proper movement mechanics. Make sure they have mastered the basics first before you start attempting complex, challenging movements. Start with low resistance, low intensity and slow speed and concentrate on their technique. Once they build a base, they can gradually start to incorporate heavier loads, higher speeds, higher intensities and more complex movements. Aim for an increase of 5-10% in volume, resistance and/or intensity every 1-2 weeks. And if your client is more prone to injury, be careful with high repetition training. If your client does excessive repetitions of the same exercise (especially at high loads and speeds), repeating the exact same articulation over and over again at that joint, it may lead to a repetitive stress type injury.
  • Don’t just work on the pretty muscles!

    • Many high intensity programs, focus on the big muscles group and complex movements while neglecting the deeper, stabilizing muscles. Take some time to isolate some of the weaker, smaller muscles. Remember to work the core, challenge the muscles around the shoulder complex, hips, knees and feet and incorporate balance work.
  • The body doesn’t respond well from 60 to 0!

    • Just like the body needs to warm-up, we also need to take some time to cool down and gradually decompress. Have clients slowly lower their intensity at the end of a workout and take some time to release and lengthen their muscles. The key to optimal health is a potent combination of strength and mobility. Our clients need to be strong but also limber so help them lengthen and release and their bodies. They will thank you for it!

Here are some signs that your clients  may be going too hard, too often…

  • Extreme & extended muscle soreness
  • Recurring Injury/sickness
  • Fatigue or a drop in exercise performance
  • Restlessness and/or attitude changes
  • Unexplained drops in weight
  • Increase in Resting Heart Rate
  • Cessation of menstrual cycle

If your clients are experiencing any of the symptoms above, ask them to lower their training intensity to determine if that’s the culprit.

High intensity training is highly effective but it’s also important to remember that it’s not ideal for beginners and definitely doesn’t need to be the focus for every single workout.

As fitness professionals we all know this information I have provided, but with so many high intensity programs out there it is good to remind ourselves and our clients  of these points. Share with fellow fit pros!

Yours in health & fitness,
Sherri McMillan

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