Yes, It’s Possible to Push Yourself Too Hard

“Nobody told me there would be days like these!” Actually, that is not entirely correct. Every new action which you take has the potential to create an undesirable reaction. Perhaps in your enthusiasm to begin, you choose to ignore the warning label. If you had read the fine print, you would know that days like these are normal. The greatest challenges do often rear their ugly heads in the early stages of your development. Do not doubt your choice. How you decide to respond to these reactions is as important as was your initial choice to include exercise in your life. Your determination will push you through the hard times that await.

Remember, for those of you who consider yourselves absolute novices, these regular bouts with physical activity are something entirely new. Whether you are a first-timer or happen to be returning to active duty after an extended leave of absence, you just might be experiencing some unwanted side-effects. More than a few of your long dormant muscles are simultaneously beginning to erupt with joy and discomfort. They are excited to be moving for sure. Nevertheless, they are already screaming for a break. I need to encourage you to continue despite this phase which you are going through. It will pass. The soreness typically associated with periods of exercise will begin to dissipate. It will make a strange, but wonderful transition as you bravely and steadily move forward. What once was an almost debilitating feeling will become not only more bearable, but also a sure sign that you’ve worked hard. A good kind of soreness will emerge. Yes, it’s true! You will begin to recognize it as a signature indicator of a successful workout.

Your ability to bounce back from a tough experience will be crucial to your early success. Rest is so important for your body. Do not underestimate this fundamental truth. You need not worry that if you stop you might not get started once again. You are more resilient than you realize. So, if you have to momentarily cease your activity, then by all means do so. As your body acclimates to this fun-filled exercise routine, you will notice a shorter rest and recovery period is required. However, a simple modification of your activity may be all that is necessary. Whatever physical exercise you are engaged in, please, listen to what your body is saying. Being a bit too over-exuberant in the first few weeks and months is perhaps the biggest mistake which I observe people making. Yes, believe it or not, even you can push yourself too hard. Doing so will turn that natural soreness which you anticipate into pain which you dread. If it follows every step, or each push, or pull, or twist, and turn, it surely cannot be ignored. Injury can be devastating to your effort to change. You don’t want to be back on the sidelines. However, a much more common sensation for beginners is a burn-out effect. It is not wise that you should run before you can walk. When I counsel “a little at a time”, I do so with all the energy that I can muster. I have seen the unfortunate results of an over-active ego in the gym. I have witnessed the damage inflicted due to under-developed patience. You don’t have to try to be Superman or Wonder Woman. With a sensible approach and trust in good things to come, you will see the super man or the wonderful woman you are capable of becoming. The eagerness to see positive results is absolutely understandable. But rather than doing too much, too soon, I would prefer that you do as Ralph Waldo Emerson once suggested–“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”

In summery, there is no secret here. As you are quietly building your foundation of fitness upon the virtuous rock of patience, do not be distracted by age old myths. The oft-repeated saying “no pain, no gain” is not at all appropriate for your ears. It can easily be misunderstood. Hearing this, you could innocently assume that you are not working hard enough if, in fact, you don’t feel this purportedly necessary ingredient. Likewise, you might incorrectly conclude that you don’t need to listen to your body. Don’t be fooled into believing that you are quite capable of working through any such pain which you encounter. This is nonsense. Be wise. Be safe. Become healthy. What more need I say? There is no mistaking the obvious fact that you do have to work hard to accomplish anything. Nevertheless, the truth is that what defines hard work is relative to your individual situation. I hearken back to what I have preached many times before. You owe it to yourself to give your very best effort each day. I cannot gauge what that means or feels like. Only you hold the keys to that knowledge. So, be true to yourself. Give it your best shot today. Don’t fret if you are feeling like the poster child for a fitness warning label: feeble knees, sore lower back, and quick to lose your breath. The small print on your poster reads “You’re doing just fine today and tomorrow will be even better!”