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Overtraining: LESS can be MORE.

Wed, Jul 15, 2009

Exercise, Viewer mail, Weight training

I’m a newbie at the mizfit blog, but I must say i’m definitely a fan.

I’m a 21 yr old female (5’4 and around 140lbs). I’m aware that I’m nowhere near being fat and that I’m healthy as it is, specially since I have a larger bone structure and a decent amount of muscle.

here’s the issue. I’ve always been a regular at exercising and I currently workout 3-5 times a week 2 hours at a time… 1 hour cardio and 1 hour arms or legs or whatever the day is. I dont really lift anything but dumbells but I’m not afraid of the weights still what I’m really trying to do is reduce fat and I can’t seem to do that.

Even while running/jogging 1 or 2 hours and eating healthy every day and counting calories and its driving me TOTALLY insane.

I regularly eat well although I do admit that I could be better during the weekends and I even stopped drinking beer first and now every single liquid that has more than 1 calorie.

I still have strong yet chubby arms and a bit of a pudge in my stomach that I want/need to get rid of.

How do you get those strong arms? Do I need to do more? workout more? Thank you.

Uh oh, People.

Ive preached consistency.

Ive nagged you to GET OUT THERE AND WALK!

Yet today Im compelled to remind you that sometimes, many times, doing LESS is more.

A great deal more.

The first thing I thought when I read this email is GIRLFRIEND, YOU ARE SO NOT ALONE.

Ive been there.

I have a number of real world friends who have been there (I know it’s shocking but yes I do log off upon occasion.).

And Ill bet a whole buncha members of the Bumbling Band have been there as well.

It is almost the American way.

If a little is good (waves to a small sprite as purchased at a movie theater concession stand circa 2000) then more must be better (jaw drops at the new small sprite size. The almost the size of my daughter’s head “small.”).

We do this with everything from self tanner to botox to exercise (Id love for you international folks to chime in here. am I wrong? is this not uniquely American?).

And, in my opinion, with 99.99 percent of these things less is really more.

When I first started lifting weights (three days a week. full body. plenty of rest.) I grew like the proverbial weed. I was smitten with the iron and found that I couldnt *wait* to return to the gym!

So wait I didnt.

I started lifting weights every day. And, much to my chagrin, my muscles started SHRINKING.

By the time Id been lifting daily for a month or so I had pretty much lifted myself back to square one—-definitely not my plan.

Not knowing all the details of your workout/foodplan this sentence still gave me the AH HA! moment I look for when reading emails:

Even while running/jogging 1 hour and sometimes even 2 and eating healthy every day and counting calories and its driving me insane.

Jogging an hour everyday? Too much for me as Id immediately be over-training.

Jogging two hours a day? Too much for everyone. (yada yada yada insert unless competitive athlete/training for marathon here)

That amount of exercise coupled with restricted eating & even the most resilient of bodies would cling to any available fat out of fear it wouldnt be on the receiving end of any for a while.

You mention this: I currently workout 3-5 times a week 2 hours at a time.

Could you, perhaps, workout less time per session and still not increase the number of training sessions per week?

Maybe try adding in interval training where you work *harder* but for a shorter period of time?

I have to say that, while the tone of your email was frustrated & slipping toward hopeless, your answer is a simple one to execute.

I know that it can be scary to do less as I oft had clients stick with the pain they knew (overtraining. no results.) versus the pain they didnt (cutting back.) for that very reason.

Yet I still urge you to give it a try.

Ponder trimming your workouts to an hour to start (30 minutes of HIT and 30 for weights) and see what you find.

See what changes you notice in a six week period (lower body fat? more energy in general? increased excitement about working out across the board? an overall sense of well-being?).

You can always go back to the old way (wink) if you find you truly don’t like the new you.

It’s tough to answer a question like this without knowing specifics or providing too many specifics which can be misinterpreted as a ‘prescription.’

You commenters, however, are free to say whatever you like sans any liability.

So git to it.


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111 Responses to “Overtraining: LESS can be MORE.”

  1. Fat[free]Me says:

    Great post and a very good reminder - I have found interval training to be a sanity-saver for me recently and totally agree - overdoing it isn’t the answer. Those rest days are so important too - the body needs time to repair.

  2. Fitarella says:

    perfect timing as always! as you know I started doing CrossFit about a month ago and one of the hardest things for me has been mentally accepting that I can get such an incredible kickbutt workout in such a short period of time (sometimes on 15-20min!). The super high intensity of the workout makes up for all that time, who knew?! ha! It’s a total mind game some days, but the results have been undeniable so I can’t argue! ;-)

  3. Bea says:

    Wait, I need to clarify: you lifted so much you got smaller??

  4. Crabby McSlacker says:

    It’s so counter-intuitive!

    I’ve never driven myself hard enough to overtrain, but this must be so frustrating. I can see how not allowing enough rest could inhibit muscle growth, but the part I don’t get is how you can expend more caloric energy with exercise than you take in through food and still not lose weight. It seems to defy the laws of physics.

    I would have a really hard time taking the leap and thinking expending FEWER calories would actually result in fat loss, but I keep hearing anecdotal evidence that this happens so you must be right. But it’s a mystery to me how it’s possible! Definitely sounds like it would be worth a try, especially as an experiment.

  5. Nan says:

    I REFUSED to believe any of this until I saw it in action at my gym.

    There is a girl who is always on the treadmill (at least 2 hours since I come and workout and shower and leave and she is still running) and I swear she looks worse than when I joined.

    I always assumed she was binging (sorry. not nice) but after chatting with her some I really think she didn’t get skinny doing 40 minutes so she keeps adding more.

  6. Andrew(AJH) says:

    Re your comment on my blog. I do have the email but I’m not emailing her. I’m a little conscious of not wanting to appear like I’m stalking her or anything, but like you I am fretting a little too. But a little less now that we are seeing occassional posts.

  7. MizFit says:

    Wait, I need to clarify: you lifted so much you got smaller??

    why YES. you totally have that correctly :)

    I never rested.
    got zero variety (at that time I was doing full body every single day. same exercises.).
    so my body was CONSTANTLY being torn down.

    when I added in rest days.
    lifted LESS I grew more muscular.

    Im like Nan in a way in that I needed to see it in action (though Id have preferred NOT ON ME ) to believe it true.

    that LESS can be MORE.

  8. Amy Guendelsberger says:

    Love this post!!!

    Definite reminder that working out and strict eating isn’t going to get any of us anywhere!!!

    Thanks again for the reminder!

  9. Kek says:

    Awesome post….I get sick of telling people this (and do they listen? *snort!*). When I began my weight-loss/better body quest, I found after a while that I was doing more and more, yet my results were - uh….less.

    It took a real leap of faith to switch from up to 10 hours a week of exercise to 3 x 50-minute weights sessions (upper/lower split) and 3 x 20-minute HIIT sessions. But whaddya know? AMAZING results!

    As for the more is better attitude with food sizes: no, it’s not exclusive to the US. But you guys excel at it. ;o)

  10. Helen says:

    BEYOND the fact I’d kill to be that weight (Im 5’4)….

    Thank you for this reminder as I am one who can easily get tripped up and think if a little is good a LOT HAD TO BE BETTER.

    and I’m from London.

    It is daunting to think about doing less than I am now but I might give it a go.

  11. Diane, fit to the finish says:

    This is really important, and extremely true! In some ways, overtraining and undereating is as bad as undertraining and overeating!

    When I was in process of losing my weight, at first I was so heavy I couldn’t overtrain, but as I lost the weight I had to find the right balance.

  12. ttfn300 says:

    rest is so important! i think you’ve got it right miz…

  13. Allie says:

    I read your blog every single morning and come away with the same thought:


    have you always been so normal?! :)

  14. Marsha @ Green Mountain at Fox Run says:

    Great post, Miz. And, yes, we’ve seen exactly this phenomenon with women who come to Green Mountain. It is counterintuitive, but it definitely is the case.

  15. Shelley B says:

    That is such a hard concept to fathom…do you think that doing 30/30 five days is too much?

  16. rob - @formerfatguy says:

    Wow, 13 responses from women. Thought I should add some masculin energy to the mix

    Great post. A good reminder to us all. Also another reason not to be afraid of eating a little more as well to give the body the fuel it needs for repair

  17. Natalia Burleson says:

    Well I think working out for me, less is more because I don’t feel so overwhelmed when I get to the gym. I do my cardio and weights at the gym so my goal is to be there about an hour 5 days a week. It’s easier to get to the gym and it’s easier to do what needs to be done when I see that after doing my cardio I only have 20 or 30 minutes left, yay!!!

    I remember when you posted that you spend about 20 minutes lifting on the days you do lift, that was my wake up call! :)


  18. Miz says:

    shelley: 30/30? I must be tired.

    Do you mean 30 minutes cardio and 30 min weights?

  19. Shelley B says:

    Yes…sorry for the confusion!

  20. Susan says:

    In MY experience, if you’re unhappy with your body fat or body composition two things will likely work - start lifting heavy weights, and start eating more. Muscle mass increases your metabolism and feeds your body’s fat. Eating more helps build this muscle, eating less will make you lose it. Cardio is wonderful, but it’s just burning calories in that moment. Besides increasing your ticker’s capability, it has no long-lasting effects on your body composition.

    Every body is different of course, but that’s what has worked for me in the past. Oh yes, and REST. Most of the work is done on your rest days, not your gym days ;)

  21. Leslie says:

    I read this and it does intellectually make lots of sense.

    I’m not there yet.

    I keep returning to ‘what if I do less and get even fatter?’

  22. dragonmamma/naomi w. says:

    You can’t just do less, the other part of the equation is MORE INTENSITY. The vast majority of people at the gym are moseying through their workouts. Take a couple of days a week and really bust your butt for 20 minutes (go straight from one exercise to another, no rests, no talking!) then LEAVE.

  23. Diana says:

    I’ve heard you say it before, but I didn’t realize it was that big of a problem! There are a lot of stories up there talking about this. I’ve never ever gotten that bad (almost one time)…I tend towards the complete opposite. But, as I can be a little on the obsessive side, it’s a great reminder!

  24. Meredith says:

    I agree with Naomi ab out the intensity!

    I remember you saying you lift weights for a really short time period which surprised me since my weight workouts lasted about an hour.

    Once I preplanned what I was going to do in the weightroom and stopped talking mine grew shorter as well.


  25. MizFit says:

    My experience since we had our daughter is, FOR ME, that would be too much.

    Because I am running (almost literally) and lifting (35+ pounds over and over as she shouts UPPIE MOMMMMEEE!) all day *I* would overtrain at that level of traditional exercise.

    Most people? Wouldn’t.

    You? What’s yer body saying?
    **feel great? Energetic?

    **looking forward to your next workout?

    **SLEEPING OK? (That’s a big indicator for me)

    I’d say you’re not overtraining.

    Help at all?

  26. Fitarella says:

    absolutely Naomi, intensity is KEY! Ya gotta really focus on what you’re doing at that moment and push yourself. And then the other part that counts is the nutrition. For me, unless I clean up my eating I don’t get the results.

  27. Fitarella says:

    Shelley - is it 5 days in a row? is the 30 minutes of weight full body or do you do one day upper, one day lower?

  28. Erica says:

    It is a strange concept, hard for the brain to take in, but too much can be damaging rather than positive.

    Tried the green monster this morning- surprised myself, I loved it! I needed a whole banana so that it was sweet enough and not too…green. But I started to enjoy the grassy flavor the more I drank!

  29. eurydice says:

    great post - i always have to remind myself to tone it down. and this post is reminding me to get back into interval training. thanks!

  30. South Beach Steve says:

    What a great post! This is something that isn’t often talked about, but I suspect it is a somewhat frequently encountered problem. Thanks for sharing.

  31. POD says:

    I saw that one hour is sufficient for fitness and one hour volunteer time at a local charity would do wonders for your soul.

    Anyone who has two hours a day is either unemployed or retired or gets some exercise by inserting the proverbial silver spoon. Must be nice.
    And cool!

  32. Stacy says:

    How do you get so many comments??

    This struck a chord with me as well.

    I would welcome those changes in six weeks but am afraid to do less.

  33. BeckStein says:

    Ok…now breathing calmer. I see my own problem…I just have to really trust (more than that) DO what I know works for me. I definitely see great results when I do my HIIT training 3 x a week and mix in circuit training 2-3 x a week on alternate days…generally 20-30 minutes only for each day. I see AMAZING results, BUT only when I actually eat my 5-6 little healthy, lean, well balanced meals everyday…that’s what I’ve been neglecting lately (Miz is so right about watching the calorie restriction). I’ve been a slacker in my meal plans. OH and I MUST get atleast 7 hours of sleep! All in all I just have to go with what I know, plan better, and STICK with it. It really is about consistency people. *smacks self in the forhead with palm of hand*

  34. Dr. J says:

    Over training “R” us, but I’m working on finding the right balance :-)

  35. Irene says:

    I’m a runner and I don’t run every day!

    Sometimes less really is more, it just needs more intensity.

  36. Lynn Haraldson-Bering says:

    I’m in the chorus, too. I’ve gone from 7+ hours a week of exercise to slightly less than 5 per week and not only am I stronger, I fret less. I was making myself crazy with the “Oh my god if I don’t workout like a maniac I’ll gain weight!!!” Silly me. I’m maintaining just fine doing much less cardio and increased (but not overtrained) strength training. I admit this was REALLY scary at first, but “the experts” were right and my body responded just the way “they” said it would when I cut myself some exercise slack.

  37. tricia2 says:

    Since I cut back to lifting about 3 times a week, with HIIT, and yoga when I feel like it, I’ve felt better. I’ve also cut back on some junk food, and eaten more healthily. My arms are slightly more defined and my skin looks clearer. It’s been maybe a week or two.

  38. charlotte says:

    I have so done this. Sadly, on multiple occassions. Is there such a thing as a chronic overtrainer?? That would be me. Something that comforts me in the “cutting back” phase of shaving hours off my workouts is to remember that more exercise makes me more hungry. It’s easier to eat clean if I’m NOT doing 2 hours of cardio a day. And in the end, what you eat makes more of a difference with your weight than how you workout.

  39. Tom says:

    Good post and advice here in the comments to Shelley.

    We need to listen to our bodies as they will tell us all we need to know.


  40. Tom says:

    Also, have you addressed the eating facet of this question?

    Do you follow a primal diet?


  41. Vee says:

    Sorry, but your e-mailer sounds obssessed. She’s healthy, which is a BIG thing. Accept the beautiful body and allow for different outlook of self. Vee at http://www.veegettinghealthy.blogspot.com

  42. Fab Kate says:

    wow, I’ve so been there in my little way… spending 4 hours or more a day at the gym or the pool… and having NOTHING fall off. I’m surprised that these days when I literally haven’t enough gas to make it to my regular gym or pool I’ve been spending a mere 20 minutes on the treadmill, and a little light muscle work at home on days I remember (probably 3 or 4 times a week) and I’m actually losing MORE weight than I was drinking slimfast and spending my day in various fitness facilities.

    I also noticed that if I were alternating days I felt STRONGER, or if I took brief breaks (a couple days) between I did better as well.

  43. Dinneen | Eat Without Guilt says:

    A few years ago I decided to take the leap and try weights. Luckily, I got some advice and also read a book that talked about doing LESS but getting more.

    Wow, what a life changer! I now do 30 min of cardio, and 20-30 min of weights 3-4 times a week. That’s it. And I mix it up with light weights & heavier weights.

    And by doing that I started to get in great shape!!

    Meanwhile, I see others spending hours at the gym lifting weights forever & then tons of cardio and they’re not seeing the results. And I wonder, “don’t they get it? You don’t have to spend hours at the gym!”

    So yes, I truly know that less IS more. And CONSISTENCY (like anything in life) is truly the key to success.

    Oh, and I find that doing less exercise I’m much more inclined to be consistent, as I don’t get burnt out!

  44. LillianB - FatBlastZone says:

    I love the way you basically broke down the reason why her routine is extremely counter-productive. She’s undermining her own efforts by doing too much. The problem is that so many of us have that “eat less” mentality ingrained in our heads that we never actually take the time to crunch the numbers - how many calories is your body burning from the activity you are doing on a daily basis, how many calories does your body need to stay fueled, and by what percentage can you safely reduce your calorie intake so your body doesn’t fall into starvation mode and so you don’t ruin your metabolism.

    Thanks again for educating us Miz Fit.

  45. julie says:

    I guess I should be glad I’m so inconsistent, I may exercise 2+ hours/day, but only 7-9 hours in the gym (including both cardio and body sculpt). I know a lot of people are critical of the classes, but I don’t care, I like them. When I’m tired I just walk for a few hours, or go for a bike ride, skip the gym. I also eat sporadically, some days I eat many tiny meals, other days I’ll eat 2 meals, especially if one is a huge burrito that’ll keep me stuffed for 8 hours. My body gets used to nothing.

  46. Cyndi says:

    I completely relate to this dilemma! Whenever I reach a plateau, and start to feel frustrated, crabby and develop that ‘why bother’ attitude, I take a little break. Runners in particular should take a ‘cut back’ week in mileage every 4-5 weeks - I’m sure this applies to any high intensity workout regimine.

    I have not done a lot with interval training, and thanks for this reminder - because that may be the ONLY thing I haven’t done yet to bust out of my weight plateau.

    And finally, ‘eating healthy every day’ could also be interpreted as ‘not eating enough’? Especially healthy fats and lean protein? Just a thought….

    Good tips from everyone!

  47. Holly says:

    Unfortunately when I’m not injured, I always get sucked into overtraining. More more more, I tell myself! Now that I’m injured (hmm, due to overtraining?), my workouts seem shorter to me because I’m not doing as much cardio. And you know what? I feel stronger!! I haven’t gained weight and I am realizing I don’t need a cajillion hours of cardio! It’s amazing how we are conditioned to think more is more - with everything.

  48. Gigi says:

    Great info as always, Miz. I’m beginning to find that walking/elliptical 40 mins 5x a week and weights 2x a week are doing it for me. But like you said,lots of trial and error and having to mix it up with mowing the lawn and other non-gym exercise.

  49. Katschi says:

    I quit every single time with the exercise because I start off at point E. instead of A.
    THIS time I will practice moderation and listen to my body. Working out 6 days a week exhausted both my body and my head.
    It’s sometimes easy to forget that at almost 50 and unfit, I should be easing in to exercise and building up the stamina to last longer/work harder.
    I like SpunkySuzi’s gig … started off with regular walks and is now doing a one-body-part-per-day workout that lasts approx. 10 min. Easy breezy.
    Good advice once again to the Dear Reader.
    Those temp tats ROCK.
    Could they be made available as blog buttons to link to MizFit? or are they already? or would you rather not?

  50. Tracie says:

    THANK YOU for this.

  51. Marianne says:

    I have to ask WHAT she is eating. (Y’all seem to have the exercise part covered.) I know in my experience that I tend to hold weight when I don’t eat enough. If you’re one of those people who drinks water/coffee/diet coke all day and are not really hungry enough to eat, you’re probably not getting proper nutrition, and the body will revolt.

  52. moonduster (Becky) says:

    I’m guilty of this! I see myself overtraining and I recognize that there’s a problem, so I cut back (but am still doing too much) the next week, and I still see results. So then I cut back a bit more to more reasonable levels for the next week. Unfortunately, I usually put weight on during that week, and instead of going at that pace for another week to give it a chance, I panic and go back up to too much training. This is a cycle for me.

    Very difficult to find the right balance.

  53. Rose says:

    Everyone’s body is different, - but I think the key is changing things up to figure out what’s going on. I found myself in a “lifting rut” about a month ago, where I felt very uninspired to go to the gym and didn’t feel like I was seeing results. When I started doing 20-minutes of yoga about a couple times a week (sometimes in place of lifting), it was like my body (especially my arms!) had a shock.

    The point of my story is that you are not alone. Just change things up in your routine. See if that makes a difference.

    Good luck to you!

  54. Dani says:

    I tend to overdo it, too. It can’t be helped. I’m in such a frenzy for results and definitely willing to do what’s been drilled in my head for ages in order to see them (until I burn out).

    “Eat less. Move more.”

    So I do! Probably to extremes at times. I’m just so desperate for change!

    Something to think about.

  55. Diana (Soap & Chocolate) says:

    While I haven’t ever exercised to the point of what would be considered overtraining, I can testify to your words being true, because after a year of exercising for 30-60 minutes 5x/week, I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, even when I was rehearsing and dancing for hours on end in college. I sure didn’t have these biceps then!

  56. deb says:

    Amen on overtraining.
    Double Amen on cutting down the jogging and substituting HIIT.
    Triple Amen on her probably increasing the intensity of her resistance training (as most women are so afraid to lift heavy).

    We all need the reminder that “the magic” happens when we’re resting -not when we’re working.

    Honestly, when I have a hard workout there is no choice about working hard the next day. My body tells me that it needs to rest and heal.

    Those that fear the rest days -and that spend hours “walking or jogging on the treadmill” should try increasing the intensity level then relishing the “no choice” rests.

  57. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    Thanks so much for this post! I think it’s so easy to overdo things, including exercise. And it’s so easy to convince yourself that if a little is good, a lot is better (or not bad for you). But it can be bad.

    I’ve found this summer that I have more time to exercise. And for the first time ever, I have to plan rest days as I was doing too much without any rest (working out for 1 - 1 1/2 hours at the gym every day (the toddler loves the childcare there), going on hikes after the gym to meet with friends, running after the toddler all day long….). My muscles were constantly achy, my weak ankle wasn’t happy, and I didn’t feel I had as much energy as I should. Adding rest days, did wonders!

  58. Diana says:

    I got to thinking about this a little more, and I think it’s why I fall into large spans of time without exercising. I either get bored or end up burning out. Great advice from everyone!

  59. MizFit says:

    you are all AWESOME in your sharing of your wisdom, experiences, PERCEIVED shortcomings & support.

    (from emails:)

    I did think about addressing food, too, in my answer (ok I initially did but it was pretty much BOOK LENGTH not post length) as I entirely agree that food intake (my gut thought, perhaps, NOT ENOUGH in this instance? emailer? you reading?) could definitely play a large part.)

  60. Nelda says:

    I rarely comment and am more of a reader yet when you mentioned the pain your clients knew (for me 2 hours of cardio a day and I was contemplating more because I am still flabby!!!) versus change I saw myself.

    I need to consider that.

    I would love to be able to do less, Miz.

  61. Tisha says:

    Well. I can honestly say that neither my body nor anyone else has ever accused me of over training. Nope. Can’t say I’ve experienced this dilemma. :)

  62. Trish (@IamSucceeding) says:

    Awesome post…NOW I am pretty sure what my deal is, been pushing myself daily (thought THAT is what I should do) and it has been getting rough and I am seeing NO results anywhere!

    OK, food check, eating 90 % whole unprocessed foods in moderation.

    Exercise, should I back off to 3 not 7 days on weight training and 30 minute, not 60 minute cardio? Does that sound like a good rule to follow?

    I have been doing about 45 min weight training 7 days a week and cardio of 60 minutes and been busting my head against the wall as to why the @#&*scale is not moving and clothes do not fit differently!!

  63. suzanne says:

    I have been doing weights every day but i’m only doing approximately 10 minutes and it’s a different body part each day. For example biceps one day and back another. My cardio is walking and i do it 3-4 days a week 40-60 minutes. Would this be considered too much. I am enjoying it and don’t feel that i’m overdoing it.

    Id agree with you. you sound like me in that I may lift 5 days a week some weeks…or even a rare 6! but Im doing short (shoulders. in and out in 15 minutes) spurts too.

  64. Sagan says:

    We always want more more more, but bigger ISN’T necessarily better, you’re right. Scaling back can help a bit. Even if only just to see it all from a new perspective. It can’t hurt… and shaking things up to try something new can be helpful too.

  65. MizFit says:

    while I TOTALLY shy away from giving exercise advice here (dont know peoples limitations, history etc) I do feel ok with this one.

    I have been doing about 45 min weight training 7 days a week.

    In my opinion no one should EVER do weights seven days a week.

    dont be me :)

    I needed to learn the hard way that it would propel me BACKWARD not forward.

    rest is as important for our muscles as the training as that’s when we go.

    Id say back off to four or AT MOST 5 (see my comment to shelley above) and you will see changes.

  66. BigFatPie says:

    oh Miz my mind is bogglign with all this new info to digest!! crap! OVER training - hadnt even THOUGHT of that….so instead of panicking what I will do is take these wise words as my indicators:

    You? What’s yer body saying?
    **feel great? Energetic?

    **looking forward to your next workout?

    **SLEEPING OK? (That’s a big indicator for me)

    I’d say you’re not overtraining.

    I know THIS will help me MAHOOSIVELY!!!!!


  67. Cammy@TippyToeDiet says:

    Excellent advice! What I’ve been doing the past couple of years and seems to work well for me is pretty much what you describe: 30 minutes strength and 15-30 minutes cardio 3 days/week, and then 30-60 minutes cardio 3 days per week. Usually. Some days I walk or bike longer. Some weeks I take an extra day. It just depends.

    My goal is to *average* the recommended 30 minutes/day. I think following this schedule has helped me meet (and mostly exceed) that goal every single week for 2 years-minus 1 month (foot surgery). It’s sustainable.

    Not to mention pretty darned effective! :)

  68. Vanessa (Last Night's Leftovers) says:

    Awesome post…as usual! :)

  69. Ann says:

    I agree that she needs to cut back and eat more (probably eat more good fats). Just a hunch.

    Once, I regularly worked out for two hours a day. At some point I realized that I would rather remain at the current weight and not spend every bit of my free time exercising. It takes a while to find the right balance!

  70. Giz says:

    As a personal trainer - I agree, sounds a lot like overtraining, and possibly not enough food. Y’all have it covered it mostly but I wanted to mention she might google “periodization” which is a training concept. The gist of it is that over a training cycle (1 week, 1 month, 1 year, however long your plan covers) you have periods of increasing difficulty followed by shorter periods of decreased difficulty. Increasing difficulty being adding weight, adding reps, adding speed etc, and decreasing obviously being the opposite. So the profile progress made is like a cross between a ramp and a stair - upupup(flatordown)upupup(flatordown). For a long cycle (more than a couple of months) - one of the flatordowns should be R&R!


  71. Giz says:

    ugh, my attempt at a graphic didn’t work at all. :-(

  72. Hallie says:

    Sigh…this reader sounds like ME. I feel like I’m working out a lot lately (weights 45 min, ~4x a week, cardio 45-60 minutes 4-5x/week…maybe that’s not that much?), and not seeing much in the way of results. But I don’t eat 100% clean (or even 90% clean some days) so I see the only way to balance out those “indescritions” is to burn more calories through exercise to create a deficit at the end of the day.

    I’m trying to keep positive about it, and I’ve been working out with the boy which has actually made us a stonger couple…but it’s hard not to want to throw in the towel some days.

  73. Mary Meps says:

    I have that tendency, too. My strength training sessions somehow blossomed to 90 minutes. I’ve scaled them back to 60. I needed to because it was getting in my way of getting other stuff done and I was starting to look for ways to get out of doing it.

    Speaking of which, it’s time to get to it.

  74. Nitmos says:

    When it comes to running, I’m also a Less is More person. I feel better by concentrating on 3-4 solid, no excuse runs a week. Any more and I start feeling run down and lose focus.

  75. Annette says:

    Overdoing it seemed to trigger my plateau! I am very aware of it these days and have tried to vary it up more and keep myself in check! Giving myself some chilling time is equal to my exercise time now ;)

  76. MizFit says:

    Overdoing it seemed to trigger my plateau!

    I saw this time & time again, Annette. THANK YOU FOR SHARING.

  77. Camevil says:

    This never seems to be talked about enough, since most of us focus on intense workouts to lose. What a great reminder that there is an opposite extreme that can be equally counterproductive.

  78. Jody - Fit at 51 says:

    I really wanted to read all the responses but did not have time. So, I just think this is a great subject for a post. It is a question that so many have!!!

    Me, I am one of the few that can overtrain & still make gains.. we are far & few between so I do agree that less can be more in most people!

    I also think, and hope this is not a repeat of something above, for me, cutting the fat off the bod really came down to a very specific change in my food choices. Even though I was eating healthy, I really cleaned it up. Some of us have bodies that keep fat on easier no matter what we do so I had to find the food choices that worked for me as well as the right ratio of protein/carbs/fat that worked for me. What works for me may not work for you so we all have to figure this out for ourselves. This has also changed thru the years so you need to pay attention & change as need be.

    In addition, I added in interval training & plyometrics which helped cut fat too!

  79. Quix says:

    This is going to be a novel. Think I’m going to save the lions share for a blog post but here is the short version…

    I am so glad I trained for and ran my half marathon. It put things into perspective. There is a time and a place for intentional overtraining, and that I should expect to *gain* not lose during that time. I won’t stop racing, but I will be much more responsible about my workouts between race training.

    I’m now getting about 30 mins focused cardio x 4 days a week and 3 x week full body strength sessions. On top of that I’m doing a zumba class, a salsa class, and a west coast swing class. Sounds like a lot perhaps but it is like a vacation for me. It’s also letting me cut down my eating instead of finding myself in front of the fridge snacking like when I was running so much.

    The eating thing is what’s tripping me up and I know it’s my achillies heel. The only way I find I succeed is if I count calories and find the number I can ingest and expend and lose weight. I would love suggestions on how many calories a 150ish lb woman should eat to both maintain and to lose. I’ve tried calorie counters out there but I haven’t found the magic bullet that makes my weight move again. Eliminating anything from my diet makes me crazy. I generally eat healthy and am trying to take myself down from “whatever I feel like” to about 1200-1400 on weekdays, slightly more on the weekends.

    So anyhoo - you are not alone. I’m 5’5″ 150ish and want to try to get down to 140 and the scale hasn’t budged since March even though some weeks I was working out almost 10 hours a week. I feel your pain, sister! THANK YOU for the novel :) I wish I did have a magic bullet website to which to send you for the calorie thing BUT in my opinion so so much comes back to activity level and types of calories consumed etc (where you say that you havent found the magic bullet via counting). For what it is worth (YANKS OFF HER ONCE WAS A TRAINER BANDANNA AND SLAPS ON HER IM CARLA! HAT) I think that 1400 sounds way too low for your active lifestyle. (yesIsaidit :) )

  80. MizFit says:


    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    I know I say this all the time HOWEVER I think it every single time my handheld PINGS! with an emailedtome comment.

  81. Lainie (Fit Fig) says:

    Thanks for this post-excellent. Going to forward it to several friends who totally overdo it all the time. I met most of my online friends on a fitness forum and I’m constantly amazed at some of the crazy workout rotations people attempt. I don’t know how they find the time, much less the energy. It will sound better coming from someone fit like you than from me, though!

    Also plan to link to this post on my blog (sometimes think about shutting down my blog and just sending everyone over here but I blog for myself as much as anyone).

  82. Heather says:

    Oh, I needed to read this today! Less has definitely been more for me. My trainer just recommended I look into interval training to do when I’m not with him, so I’m glad that you reminded me. Also, to the reader: definitely do less! I think you could still see results doing less. My personal experience has been that nutrition still has a lot to do with it, so while counting calories is important, what KINDS of food you’re eating matter. Also, arms seem to be the hardest for me to get where I want them. While I’m getting a lot of great muscle definition (hi, tricep, didn’t know you existed until a few months ago!) I’m find it hard to lose the “wings” that I have under there. Good luck!

  83. RickyRae says:

    Ironic how too much good thing can have undesirable effects. I guess the important thing is to ‘listen’ to your body by paying attention to how it is affected by different training routines. Every’body’ is different! :)

  84. Jamie says:

    Running for two hours every day is too much for most competitive runners, too; it takes *years* (and good genetics) to be able to handle that kind of mileage. I’ve been in this for 4 years, now, and I still risk injury or illness if I go over 25 miles/week.

    The other thing that comes to mind is having too much consistency. If you run every day, your body is going to become more and more efficient at running, which means you’ll expend less and less energy doing it. That’s great if you’re looking to run farther or faster, or if you’re planning to run after biking for three hours. But not so great if your main goal is to burn calories. It’s basic info, right? But so easy to forget when we look at ladies like Lolo Jones (or fellas like Brad Kahlefeldt) and think, “They run! And they look great! There must be a connection . . .” So consistency is great for health, but gotta switch it up regularly if you want to keep burning the big calories.FANTASTIC POINTS. and I love the Lolo.

  85. Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter) says:

    So been there my friend. Listen to Miz…less really is more. Tabata intervals on the bike a few times a week mixed in with some weights and a little yoga…that’s all you need. None of these 2 hour workouts. Our bodies were not made to do that - they really weren’t! The following post opened my eyes big time:


  86. Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter) says:

    I think I just got spammed. :(

  87. Amy (Feasibly Fit Mom) says:

    Yup. And ditto @Giz re: “periodization.” It’s surprising how much a mental rut (the proverbial treadmill) translates into a physical rut — I see it often with my clients, too. Also agree that eating (the *what* more than *how much* imo) is a huge barrier for most of us to getting results.

    For those of us hung-up on whether doing less is worth it: Commit to a 4-6 week experiment. Try doing less, then go back to your old ways if it’s no good. (There we are, back at “periodization” again…)

  88. Heather M says:

    Umm, yeah. I think the letter writer probably isn’t reading anymore, but I triple-back-up MizFit’s suggestion.

    If you’re running 2 hours a day, you need to be increasing your calorie consumption, not decreasing it. Your body’s going into starvation mode. I started running over a year ago, and quickly learned that the most important way to gain muscle and endurance is to eat as my body demands. LOTS of protein and complex carbs with some simple-ish carbs after long runs.

  89. josha says:

    Miz is so right! Less is more if you make it an intense workout. Get your muscles to failure, and do Hiit style cardio. And change things up about every 4 weeks. Don’t even worry about endurance type cardio until you get your fat loss where you want it. You’ll lose more fat with intense intervals, whether running, jumping rope, running stairs, whatever.

  90. Hanlie says:

    I’m always tinkering when it comes to my exercise routine… But yes, I don’t want to fall into the over-training trap!

  91. bjbella5 says:

    Timely post Miz! I have cut back my training and my crazy urges to eat everything in sight (hello sugar) has gone BYBY! And I have lost inches (I am not letting myself on the scale for another couple of weeks). I couldn’t understand why I was working out harder & more than ever and my weight kept going up. I also couldn’t figure out why I was having these incredibly intense urges to eat constantly. Hello over-training and not eating enough protein.

    The sad part is I didn’t cut back the training because I thought I should, I did it because my kids crazy summer activity schedule forced me to. I should have known better, but like you said…more is always better right!

  92. KK @ Running Through Life says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS POST MIZ!!!! As I have posted on my blog, I am currently in the midst of dealing with a hip and knee injury caused by……yep, you guessed it….OVERTRAINING. I needed this post to remind me that I am not alone and to also knock it into my head that less is MORE.

    So, thank you!!!!

  93. karen says:

    MizCarla, I have been apologetically absent from your divine presence……but had to log in to say I LOVELOVELOVE the unapologetically myself tattoo. Good work!

  94. Sal M says:

    these days it’s great when common sense rules the day, especially with regard to eating and exercise.

  95. Amy@Live Well says:

    This concept is one that I need to be reminded of every now and again…I’m an addict to weights once I get going on them, then I don’t see results and must remind myself less is more. Thanks for the reminder!

  96. NewMe says:

    I think the real problem here is that this person has serious body image issues.

  97. John says:

    Think of it this way…

    Training + Rest + Balanced diet = Results

    If the left side isn’t balanced then the right side will be out of balance as well.

    As for training it should always be intense otherwise it isnt TRAINING

    As for rest you should try for 7-9 hours (impossible for me)

    Balanced diet = good whole foods low to medium glycemic index carbs plenty of lean protein and conservative amounts of HEALTHY Fats in the range of your Basal metabolic rate plus the amount of calories you do for regular day activities plus the amount of calories you burn during your work out. Take away about 10 - 20% if you want to trim some fat, but ALWAYS listen to your body.

    If you train harder than you are going to need to rest more and sleep more.

  98. Cathy - wheresmydamnanswer says:

    I hear ya!! and you are right!! Great article and I think I am doing way too much!! Thank You

  99. ally says:

    I am SO glad I stumbled across this post and blog.

    I am 19 years old, and have fallen into a exercise/diet obsession where it is so hard to see that LESS IS MORE.

    Last year, during my freshman year at college I gained about 20-25 pounds coming in at 161 pounds in February of last year. I am almost 5’10. While this really isnt “fat” for someone my height, i definitely did have weight on me and had those dreaded love handles and a pouch!
    I went home for the summer and dropped the weight I gained at school just by cutting back significantly on my calorie intake & walking 20 minutes everynight. It made all the difference.


    I am back at school and have lost an additional 10-15 pounds since being here in August because of my access to a FREE gym. It has spiraled out of control.

    I am now up to….

    I do 60 minutes of cardio 6 days a week (switch between treadmill, elliptical, stair-master, and bike) and one day of 35 minutes. On top of that I am lifting weights everyday. One day ill do legs & abs, next day I will do back &shoulders, then arms& abs, ect. on a rotation. I will add in some jumping jacks and other brief exercises in there as well on some days.

    ALSO, I know for a FACT I am not eating enough for the amount of activity I am doing. Breakfast: Special K Bar 90 calories, Lunch: yogurt (200 cal about?) with spec k flakes ( 60 cal about) and a fruit cup ( under 200). Dinner is always under 500 calories no matter what I eat. I rarely snack, and if i do its under 200 calories and only once a day.

    I love how I look and am so afraid that if i change any of my habits or do less or eat more I am going to gain weight. Its a serious issue.

    If anyone could just lend advice or tell me a similar story that would be great.

  100. ally says:

    Forget to mention:

    My height now 5’9 almost 5’10.
    Weight : 129- 130 pounds.

  101. Alexander Miller says:

    Calorie Restriction really helps in avoiding some diseases like diabetes and heart disease.`”`

  102. Sebastian Hussain says:

    research suggest that calorie restriction can also lengthen a person’s life span.”*

  103. Max Wood says:

    as science suggests, calorie restriction diets are great for longevity`*~

  104. Maria says:

    I know this is an old post but I had to thank you. I’ve heard this countless times, I’ve nodded my head in approval, but yet I still needed to hear it today.

    I’ve been training 60mn each day (alternating walking running) for a while. But recently I’ve started a program alternating strength training intensely (30mn) on one day and intense Cardio (30mn). Although they both make me sweat like crazy, heart pounding, definite after workout burn - I had convinced myself that 30 minutes was nothing… I had to add something (more 60mn running in addition). I’ve lost the energy bonus I had gained from the workouts I initially did and I realize that yes… Maybe doing those daily 30mn intensely and well and just moving along the day might be better…

    So thank you :)

    • Paula Stiernberg says:

      This concept resonated with me so deeply that I posted a new entry on my blog about overscheduling anything for our children. So many of us have activities, lessons or structured play times for our children each and every day. We miss out on the joy of the down time and forget to just be. Thanks again for your thoughts!


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