Quality over quantity: How much exercise is too much?

Athletes, including Les Mills group fitness instructors like myself, have lots of traits.

But a lot those closest to me will tell you that the one that stands out among the rest is my stubbornness.

I’ve taken the BodyPump stage with almost every ailment possible: Hangovers, the flu, colds, a broken toe, bronchitis, bumps and bruises. All for one purpose: To deliver to my members a motivating, uplifting workout.

At some point, sometimes you sit down and think: How much is too much, and how much punishment are we truly willing to put our bodies through?

Brainstorming for this post came from a simple post on Facebook: How many BodyPump classes a week do you teach?

It generated many answers and a lot of people spoke of teaching up to 5 classes a week, doing doubles on certain days, and the like.

For those not familiar, a BodyPump “double” involves teaching two classes on the same day. I’ve done it many times when needed to sub for teammates in their time slots – sometimes even teaching two classes in a three-hour span – but I would never recommend it to any member, similar to doing BodyPump on consecutive days.

I’m always clear to my participants that I only do these types of things when thrust into duty, and that only three BodyPump classes per week are recommended for our members, and back to back days doing Pump is a big no-no. We come to classes to build our bodies and make gains, not to break them down.

If you’re an instructor and you’re forced into double or triple duty, remember that it’s OK to take a little bit of weight off the barbell. The participants will understand. They come to class because they love the workout and enjoy your presence. An example: In August of 2012, I fractured one of my big toes, and couldn’t lunge on that foot for a good solid month, month and a half. My members knew this. They didn’t care. All they cared about was the fact that I was leading them to their goals and delivering a strong class.

Also, we have to listen to our bodies, especially on our non-teaching days. Again, just because exercise is good for you doesn’t mean you should overdo it. Think quality over quantity. Sometimes, I will admit I feel lazy on the days I don’t train on my non-teaching days, but having a day to myself to recharge my batteries isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If I’m doing a BodyPump double, the next day I won’t even pick up a bar, and unless it’s CXWorx, resistance training of any kind is out the window, too.

Even if your stubborn like me, remember to think quality over quantity, and remember that going for short-term goals isn’t as important as striving for long-term aspirations. Reaching them strongly involves listening to your body. Too much exercise eventually takes a toll, and muscles will start to break down instead of grow stronger. Your muscles will need that recovery, and will appreciate it.

That’s why we have modifications in BodyPump. And as instructors, we have to remind our participants that they are there, and that we don’t always have to “go hard or go home.” You may not realize that somebody has a sore shoulder or bad knee, and somebody could easily get injured.

Listen to your body. It could go a long way in reaching your dream.

Ryan McLaughlin

About Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports reporter Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In "The Boston Blitz" he'll be sharing his perspective with BDN readers about what's happening on the Boston professional sports scene.