By Cord Prettyman, MPT

She was a drop-dead gorgeous California beauty – Nike model, frequent music video persona and an aspiring actress with tremendous pressure to maintain the unrealistic and unhealthy American female “body beautiful.”

A typical day of exercise consisted of a sixty minute morning run, a ninety minute afternoon weight workout and one-hour of kick boxing in the evening. She complained constantly of being chronically tired and sore with erratic appetite and mood swings.As her personal trainer, it was my job to educate her regarding the negative impact of over-training and to change her behavior. It wasn’t until I threatened to drop her as a client that she listened.

Exercise can change both the quality and longevity of your life. However, if overdone, it can have negative consequences. The American College of Sports Medicine defines over-training as excessive frequency, duration and/or intensity. This common syndrome manifests itself in both physiological and psychological symptoms with early onset usually characterized by a sudden decline in performance.

The psychological symptoms of over-training, often, are observed first. ACSM has identified those as mood swings, decreased motivation, loss of confidence and/or concentration and raised levels of tension, depression, anger, fatigue, anxiety and irritability.

The physiological symptoms are decreased body weight and appetite, sleep disturbances, elevated resting heart rate and blood pressure, chronic muscle soreness, unexplained nausea, injury and a suppressed immune system.

Here’s how to avoid over-training and still get maximum results. Every exercise program has four variables to manipulate – mode, frequency, duration and intensity.

 Mode is the exercise you are doing and equipment being used. Cross-training is a must for your aerobic program … walk, run, cycle, swim, ski, snowshoe, stair-step, row or use elliptical trainers. Change your aerobic program regularly and you’ll elicit a better training effect.

In strength training, mode refers to program design. Doing the same weight lifting exercises repeatedly yields diminishing returns and increases your risk of injury. I write a new strength program for my clients every three to four weeks.

Frequency refers to how many days per week or times a day you are exercising. A balanced weekly program calls for three days of strength training alternating with three days of aerobic conditioning followed by a day of rest. One exercise bout per day is enough.

How long each exercise session lasts is known as duration. ACSM calls for exercise sessions to last between thirty to sixty minutes. The training benefits are minimal and injury curve significant for exercise bouts lasting longer.

The greatest culprit in over-training is intensity. Your exercise intensity for both aerobic and strength conditioning needs to alternate between hard workout days and easy days.

The most effective way to monitor your intensity is through your perception. Your perceived exertion of a workout should be between “somewhat hard” to “hard.” It’s OK to spike at “very hard” but don’t live there.

Remember…life is a marathon, not a wind sprint. Train smart.

Cord Prettyman is an IDEA Master Personal Trainer with 32-years of personal training experience, who works at the Montana Athletic Club in Bigfork, Montana. He can be reached at the club at 406-837-2582 or directly at 719-761-8592. Email: Website: