Are you trying too hard?

A recent study on exercise and heart rate that claims the old method of figuring out your target heart rate for exercise (65-85 percent of your maximum heart rate) was calculated for men’s hearts, not women’s. The result, according to the study: We’ve been exercising too hard.


I’m not a doctor, and I don’t play one on TV (sorry, couldn’t resist). I won’t debate the veracity of the study. Most of the responses have instructed people to listen to their own bodies and respond accordingly instead of being controlled by the number on a heart monitor. As I discovered during my first round of Beachbody’s Insanity program, I can do a lot more than I think I can if I push myself. However, I can also injure myself by pushing too hard, too fast, for too long.

Our culture expects — demands — a great deal from women today. Much of it calculated on the expectations placed on men. But while men seem to come with a built-in ability to shut down when it’s time to rest or relax, most of the women I know (myself included) would be content to go without sleep if it meant we could “get more done.” We’re always pushing, pulling, and pressing.

photo by twotoneatl via PhotoRee

Is that a bad thing? If it’s wearing you out physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually, it is. If it’s creating friction and inflammation of your joints — your relationships with others — you’re probably trying too hard.

It goes totally, completely, against my grain to think of slowing down and taking it easy. The idea of exercising at the newly recommended 111-153 beats per minute as opposed to my regular 168-185 disturbs me. After all, if I’m not maxed out, what’s the point?

It’s as if I’m wired to secretly believe the world will stop moving if I slow down. Don’t point your finger and shake your head. I’ve yet to meet a woman out there who simply goes to bed when she comes down with symptoms in her body.

photo by paradem via PhotoRee

Why do we resent the “man-cold” so much? Because deep down we know that if we did what guys do when we got sick, we’d get better faster. But we can’t won’t, because we’ve got to do the dishes and the laundry and finish that project for work. Because we not only feel guilty for stopping, we feel vindicated by crawling around on our hands and knees to pick up the toys in the living room when we have a fever of 101. Something twisted about that picture, don’t you think?

So if overexercising makes us more prone to injury, as well as less efficient at conditioning our hearts, building muscle, and burning calories, could it be that our constant pushing and striving in other areas is making us less effective, less productive? Are we just running on a treadmill, going nowhere fast?

As someone has said, you can say “amen” or “oh, me.”

4 thoughts on “Are you trying too hard?

  1. Anne Mateer says:

    LOL! Since I haven't been able to get back on track with exercising since Christmas, this actually makes me feel better! But yes, I'm really bad about going full tilt and thinking I have to for the world to keep turning.

  2. Niki Turner says:

    I just loved the vintage picture of the women on the stationary bikes! I wonder if God looks down at us rushing about and shakes His head at our silliness. Like tiny toddlers with pretend vacuums, frantically cleaning our little houses…

  3. Georgiana Daniels says:

    Oh no! I didn't realize the guidelines for heartrates had changed. I already have a problem staying in guideline because even while I can breathe without any trouble, my heartrate skyrockets. Ugh. One more thing to worry over. OR, I can take it a leetle easier 😉

  4. Niki Turner says:

    Georgiana, I'm like that, too! 180 bpm is pretty normal for me. I think the advice to listen to your own body is probably the best. I figure if I get good and sweaty by the time I'm done, I've probably worked out hard enough!

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