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Fitness Friday: Is is it Possible to Exercise TOO Much?!

I mentioned I would divulge this whole half marathon saga for Fitness Friday, so here you go:

I started training because my cousin asked if I would do a half marathon with her. She is aboslutley adorable and the sweetest girl I know. Saying no to her is like turning down a puppy. You just can't do it. So I said yes and off I went to try and get my butt in shape. I figured it would be easy. . I've still got it, right? Yeah, no. My back was not okay with it. I underestimated the toll long distance running can take on the back. To be honest, if the race was any later in the year I may have dropped out. In fact I didnt even run at all the week leading up to it.

Here's what happened at the race: I cross the finish line with my puppy (my 85 pound German Indian Dog named Finnick: I picked him up close to the end so he could finish with me): THE PLAN: get my race metal and go to walk over to my husband and immediately start walking back to the finish so I could wait for a friend to come through while continueing to keep my back moving. WHAT HAPPENED: WELL, my pup is a rather unique looking furball and gets a substantial amount of attention. I hadnt even been done for ten seconds when I was intercepted by people asking about my dog. Thankfully I made it to my husband because the standing in one place after that amount of activity was NOT GOOD. My back kept spazzing and I had to keep grabbing onto his arm to brace myself. I had to walk (more like hobble) so slowly to the car because it felt like one little misstep and I would have been in serious trouble. The whole car ride home I kept having waves of hamstring, back, and glute spasms. Thankfully we have an inversion table and I was able to get a handle on most of it.

It was all right in the end. I made my time goal which I am thrilled about and the course was a blast with people cheering along the route and all kinds of live music. BUT, I am ready to hang up the (long distance) running shoes. To make myself feel better about this decision, I tried to find a reason that long term, long duration endurance activities are not good for you in general.

Also, I don’t want YOU to think that you have to exercise like a complete maniac to be healthy.

I am going to be honest, I didnt find a whole lot. More and more athletes are pursuing these ultra events. There are SOME patterns emerging that show exercising beyond a certain point (number of hours per week at a certain intensity) results in NEGATIVE health consequences as opposed to continued steady improvement in health. Some studies on athletes showed they actually have higher rates of heart scarring, overall structural abnormalities, and changes in the electrical signaling in the heart. Other studies show they have healthier hearts depending ont he criteria they used to classify the heart as "healthy". You very RARELY hear about ultra athletes dropping dead, but more people now than ever before are engaging in these activities. There has not been an opportunity to look at long term outcomes. We really don’t know what impact they have on overall life expectancy. We have to wait to find out. My point is, you don’t have to assume that these insane athletes have it all figured out and that they will live forever. Their feats are incredible and the lengths to which the push their bodies are remarkable, but there could be long term risks in which which they are subjecting themselves that no one really knows about, yet. I also feel that I was destroying my own health by working out excessively.

I used to train 10-15 hours a week. I started getting crazy heart palpitations and dizziness. I was extensively evaluated by a cardiologist that specialized in young female athletes. One of things he mentioned when I had my heart imaging done was that the right side of my heart was enlarged. He said it was nothing to be concerned about so I went on my way and didn’t change anything. This was ten years ago. Recent studies have come out with some interesting things. When you get evaluated by a cardiologist they use certain tests and criteria to determine your cardiac health. The Brains started looking at other things that may give insight into heart health that is not routine in the doc’s office. One of the things I noticed was that right sided heart enlargement, when looked at closely, was associated with some unique scarring patterns in an area of the heart that doctors do not evaluate. There is so little information on this but it makes you think. I was only 19 when I was at the peak of my training. What would the implications have been if I kept going? That is an exceptionally young age to start the really long distance stuff. I always wonder what I would be dealing with if I hadn’t quit training at 21.

This is Just food for thought. It doesn’t mean anything yet but worth a discussion.

What is the optimal exercise prescription?

Of course this is different for everyone and recommendations vary beyond the standard recommendations from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

For now, the recommendation for OPTIMAL health benefits, is 9 hours a week of moderate exercise or 4.5 hours per week of vigorous exercise. Some say lighter activity is better, others say shorter bouts of vigorous activity is better. It can get complicated depending on your goals. Are you exercising for weight loss or for health benefits? The prescription would be different for those and highly dependent on your abilities and should take into account your interests. There is never an easy answer for anything. We don’t live in a black and white world. So I say, JUST HAVE FUN and do what you love. Movement is life. If you want to run a marathon, I am not going to stop you. But if you think you have to in order to live longer, be healthy, and skinny, then let me put that belief to rest. It is important to love movement and derive enjoyment out of it. It’s too stressful on your body to push it beyond the limit and that added stress of hating it does not do you any favors.

Your exercise routine can be ANYTHING! You can use a ton of equipment or you can use none at all. To get you started on your exercise Journey, next Fitness Friday, I will start posting workout ideas that can be done using random things around your house. It will be fun, challenging, and seriously burn some calories.

Here is my pup and I crossing the finnsh 🤗

Have a GREAT weekend!

Photo credit: T Wellott Photography (thanks for braving the rain and cold to capture this moment)


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