It seems at every turn there's a new fitness regimen claiming to be "the one" to get you in shape and give you that physically fit body you've always wanted. If you are considering starting a new workout program, it is important to know how the program can benefit you, but it is equally important to understand what risks and potential harm it may cause you.
Many of the latest fitness programs, characterized by high-volume, aggressive exercise workouts with a variety of high-intensity repetitions and short rest periods, are categorized as extreme conditioning programs, or ECPs. While ECPs are challenging, exciting and motivating, they sometimes go against accepted standards for developing muscular fitness and can cause musculoskeletal injuries like strained muscles, torn ligaments and stress fractures. These types of injuries can result in loss of work time, medical treatment and, in some cases, extensive rehabilitation, all of which significantly impact mission and family readiness.
Another aspect of extreme conditioning programs to consider is overtraining. Reaching peak fitness performance levels usually requires training beyond your body's normal comfort range. Extreme conditioning involves intense exercise repetitions with short rest periods in between. Too much training without adequate recovery periods can lead to overtraining, which can result in extreme, persistent physical and mental fatigue with issues like insomnia, change in appetite, irritability, restlessness, weight loss, depression, and increased blood pressure.
Even though extreme conditioning programs s have some possible negative outcomes, participants report that they have never been in better physical shape. If your fitness regimen includes an ECP, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of injury and overtraining.
- Be sure you check with your physician to make sure you're medically fit to participate in an extreme conditioning program.
- Develop a plan to introduce yourself to the program, gradually increasing the exercise intensity and duration as your body adjusts to the regimen.
- Increase the duration of the rest periods between sets of exercises and plan days of reduced or no conditioning to allow your body to recover.
- Be sure your diet includes sufficient carbohydrates, proteins and essential nutrients.
- Monitor yourself for symptoms of overtraining — fatigue or muscle soreness — and adjust your training accordingly. A great resource for helping you assess your training distress can be found at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
When it comes to fitness and training, some would say that more is better. However, more is not always better; in training, more can lead to too much if you're not careful and balanced in your fitness regimen.
For more information about fitness and training, visit Human Performance Resource Center, a Department of Defense initiative under the Force Health and Readiness Program. In addition, check out the health widgets "My Health Finder" and "Be Active Your Way" from healthfinder.gov.