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Ester Marsh column: Start slowly and be consistent

By Ester Marsh
For the Salisbury Post

You finally made the decision to start working out after the quarantine and you really are “feeling it.” As we all know, too much, even the good stuff, is not always good for you.

I have been exercising pretty much since I was a baby, standing at 6 months, walking at 8 months and running by 9 months and swimming shortly after. I have experienced overtraining and many injuries in my sports career. You expect elite athletes to run into overtraining and injuries because you really push your body to the limits. But in everyday exercising, you too can experience overtraining. So how should you start (or start back) an exercise program?

Many people due to the pandemic have done nothing or exercised very differently. Whether it is fitness, running, or swimming, start slowly. Start with two to three days a week, 30-60 minutes per workout. If that works for two weeks, increase by one day and again re-evaluate in two weeks. I highly recommend starting with a trainer or a class. This way, the trainer and/or instructor can help guide you safely through a workout routine. If you start on your own, make sure you have a good warm up and a thorough stretch after you are done.

Too much too soon can negatively affect your body. Some issues are inflammation of the tendons due to overworking them (tendonitis), joint pain, dehydration due to catabolic state, insomnia and depression. Catabolism is pretty much responsible for the proper preservation and growth in all cells. In the catabolic state, the body can’t keep up with the restoration of the cells, which, besides dehydration, can be responsible for muscle soreness past the 72-hour mark. Proper nutrition and appropriate rest is a must for a healthy workout schedule.

Overtraining can also play a part in personality changes, from a better-than-everyone complex to very low self esteem. Some people might feel the world is coming to an end if they don’t work out. Your immune system is down and you could be getting sick a lot, including being more susceptible to COVID-19 to common colds, the flu or even flu-like symptoms due to overtraining. We need our immune system to be as strong and healthy as possible. Overtraining can also decrease your testosterone production which brings all kinds of other issues with it.

Overtraining can lead to a vicious circle — your body could be injury-prone because it can’t recover, and you might have decreased motivation because you don’t see progress. You know you need to work out for good health, but too much can be very bad for your health. So my recommendation is to start with a trainer or group/class to learn how to build up a safe and healthy workout program. If you are experiencing overtraining symptoms, re-evaluate your workout program and seek professional help if/when needed.

Leaving you with one of my go-to quotes by Edna Ferber:

“Perhaps too much of everything is as bad as too little”

Ester H. Marsh is health and fitness director of the J.F. Hurley YMCA.

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