There are times when fitness professionals' “advice” does more harm than good.
Being a personal trainer myself, it sometimes blows my mind when I hear what some trainers have told their clients to do in order to “get in the best shape of their lives”.
That's because sometimes their advice can be downright dangerous. I'm sure that it happens to men too, but knowing how sensitive women can be to over training (and having been through hypothalamic amenorrhea myself), it makes me especially careful when this BS advice is given to women.
How do you know you are overtraining? Here's how: you don't recover as fast as you used to, it's harder to find motivation to go and workout (but you likely do it anyway!), you are sore longer, you feel that you “have” to go although you don't want. Some of the physical & physiological signs are these: You lose your sleep, you are cold often, you get sick more often than you used to, your nails and hair get weak, you get insane cravings… oh, and let's not forget: You can lose your period.
If you suffer from overtraining and some of these symptoms I just mentioned, but don't know how to heal yourself, my 3-month Overtraining Rehab can help you.
BS Fitness Advice That You Shouldn't Listen
Here are some examples of fitness “tips” that you should stay away from:
“If You Take a Break, You'll Put On Ton of Weight”
Yesterday, one woman told me that she has been absolutely exhausted for several months. She does some yoga, a few bootcamp classes a week, and runs once or twice a week and sometimes rides her bike. She also has two kids and a full time job, so she's definitely not sitting around!
But she's tired. Exhausted. Her acupuncturist advised her to take it easier for a few months, do just 20 minutes yoga daily and move as much as she needs and feels is good in her everyday life.
What this woman's trainer said was this: Sure, do it if you want, but you'll put on a ton of weight.
Can I just add that the same trainer had once already suggested that she started doing CrossFit to “keep her weight in check”? Oh, and that her cycle has already been messed up a few times (=loss of period for some months) when she was dealing with very stressful events in her life?
Of course she was now confused and worried, because she doesn't want to put on a ton of weight. But she also doesn't have any energy left!
So, there are basically two options:
1) She could keep working out… and keep feeling like crap. She could even start that CrossFit and likely feel like even more crap. She might lose weight when she upped her workout intensity, but not necessarily. When the body is constantly stressed out because of lots of exercise, possibly lack of sleep and everyday stress, losing any weight is very difficult.
2) She could take weeks or even months of break… and very likely feel better. What about that weight gain, that seems the most awful thing in the world to many women? Well, it may happen and it may not! She is still going to walk, occasionally ride her bike and do some yoga. She likely won't start eating like it's her last day (she does not have HA, so there's no need for that). Chances are that when there's less exercise, also her appetite might be smaller.
And even if she puts on a few pounds, then what? Based on my own experience, taking months off improved my health so much that I'm way more energized and focused than 6 months ago when I was working out 6 days a week, when I was constantly sleep deprived and of course, infertile. My cortisol output was high all the time because of never ending exercise.
“You're Going to Eat 900 Calories on Your Pre-Wedding Diet”
One personal trainer told me that he puts his clients on a pre-wedding 900 cals a day diet so they can lose weight quickly.
900 calories… is nothing. I don't think there are too many adults whose BMR is just 900 calories. BMR is the minimum amount of energy that we need every day to just function, and exercise is not included in it.
Here's an example: At 5'9” and 163 lbs, my BMR is approximately 1680 (none of these BMI calculators are 100% accurate). That's what my body needs to keep me breathing, my metabolism working, keeping my body temperature stable and so on. On most days, I move too, not lay on the couch all day. Depending on whether I exercise or not, my daily expenditure is hundreds and hundreds calories more than my BMR, likely around 2200-2400.
If my trainer whose advice I trust and take seriously, tells me to eat 900 calories a day, then I'm paying him money to mess my health up.
What happens to that bride whose goal was to lose weight for her big day? Well, she probably loses some weight at first, because her energy expenditure is very high. But after even just some days or maybe a week she starts to feel extremely exhausted, has no energy, especially for working out, she gets cold, she's constantly hungry and thinking about food, and she's probably not the most fun person to be around.
After the big day is over, she probably dives head first into that wedding cake and the next weeks the unstoppable eating continues. Because nobody can live on a 900 calories a day diet forever. She may also harm her metabolism, digestion, and of course, hormonal balance. And sure enough, she gains back all the weight with some added interests.
Why Trainers Give Women BS Advice
I think there are a few reasons why trainers give women BS advice like this.
Maybe they don't know how women's bodies function. That seems to be true especially true for male trainers. They may tell you to do a million burpees each session and eat 900 calories a day without knowing how harmful it can be. A lot of guys also tell women to stop eating carbs or if you still can't see results, just do intermittent fasting!
Of course, not all male trainers are like this, but many are.
However, female trainers may do the same. I have even myself written articles on how to push harder and never give up! But that advice is not true for everyone, and definitely not for those who are already burned out. Your trainer may be really strong and never experienced overtraining herself, so it's easy to tell to just workout harder. But this is NOT often the right thing to do.
One more reason… Some trainers just don't want to lose their money. Because if they tell their clients that it's okay to rest two months, they lose their client, of course. Putting your pay check before other people's health is irresponsible, but unfortunately it happens.
If you're a fitness professional, be careful with the advice you give your clients. Understand that women's bodies work way differently than mens, and are often much more sensitive than you may think. Ask questions, and if it comes out that they are already constantly stressed or burned out, the last advice you should give them is to work out harder. That causes only more problems.
If you're the one who receives this advice, you're actually responsible too. Self-trust should always come first. Ask yourself how are you feeling. Would more exercise make you feel better or worse now? Would rest make a difference?
You actually know when you're burned out and need some time off. After some weeks or months, you are likely more rested, you have more energy, and you will return to your workouts stronger than before.
If you need support on your journey to recover from overtraining or hypothalamic amenorrhea, my ebook, programs and FREE 20-minute coaching calls are available for you! I get back to every email, so let me know if I can help.