Less is More

Exercising is good for you.

If you’re reading this blog, then you probably already knew that. What you might not know is that exercising is also a traumatic experience for your body, even when you’re doing it correctly.

The human body loves to adapt to patterns in its environment. If it encounters something repeatedly, it will rebuild itself as best it can to better prepare you for the next time you see that same stimulus. If you wear shoes that consistently rub the skin on the side of your foot, the skin will grow thicker at that spot to protect you. If you move to a place with higher altitude where the air is thin, your body will adapt to be more efficient at processing the reduced oxygen in the air your breath.

Exercise aims to take advantage of this adaptation response. When we do exercises that involve moving against a challenging resistance (holding weights, or sometimes even just using our own body weight), we cause damage to the body. A well constructed workout ensures that this damage is minimal, and that the body will recover quickly. A workout that isn’t well constructed will either not cause any trauma to the body and thus not create any change response, or will cause too much trauma too the body, leading to injuries.

This change response within the body is similar to pruning a tree. If a tree is never pruned or pruned too lightly, it will grow all over the place. This happens to us when we consistently select exercises that present no challenge to the body. Although the right amount varies from person to person, your body will see no reason to change if the workout you choose doesn’t challenge you.

Subsequently, if a tree is pruned to too frequently, then all your are left with is a stump. The tree doesn’t have a chance to grow back from the one pruning before it’s being cut down again. This can be us when we want results so badly that we try to workout everyday. Eventually, it catches up to us, at best preventing results, and at worst causing injury.

But if the tree is expertly pruned to just the right amount, not too much, and not too little, then the tree will grow back healthier and in the exact shape its gardener intended.

When deciding how frequently to exercise, remember the tree and make sure you don’t over-prune your body!

How much is right for you? Your body will usually tell you. Are you not sleeping well or waking up still tired? Are you dragging through your workouts? Are you getting sick more frequently than usual? These could be signs you’re spending too much time working out. Remember, when it comes to exercising, quality of exercise time always beat quantity of exercise time.