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Exercise Column

Measuring exercise overload

The amount of overload a person accumulates is dependent on three main parameters:

Frequency - how often you train and how many days per week you work out. Some people often workout several times per day. On some days many of you are doing a cardio workout (or two) and a resistance, lifting workout.

Duration - how long your workouts last. Total time of each workout is important - including the time of the warm-up, the training segment, and the cool-down. More important, however, is your total on-time. On-time is the amount of time you actually spend exercising.

For continuous cardiovascular workouts your on-time equals your workout duration. For weight lifting workouts, and interval workouts, while your on-time once again includes warm-up and cool-down time the most important time is that spent doing your lifts (usually measured in reps and sets) or the actual on-time for all of your intervals. Since interval workouts include work segments followed by recovery segments the actual time of the training segment is much longer than the time spent doing the efforts. It is that time spent doing the efforts which is important.

Intensity - how hard you work out is the third component of overload. You can measure exercise intensity by measuring HR (% HRmax, exercise HR, etc.), cadence, speed, pace, power, %RM, load, etc.

Of the three parameters of overload, intensity is the most important for determining the rate, type, and degree of adaptation. It is the parameter which must be kept high is you chose to reduce frequency or duration when your time is limited if you hope to maintain your fitness.

Make sure to monitor your overload and realize there will be times your outside stressors combined with your workouts are just too much and you need to reduce your training load in order to avoid burn-out, injury, or illness.

When intensity is applied in excess (too quickly, to much, above your current fitness level) it can lead to injury or over training more rapidly than when you modify the other two parameters.
Written by Dr. Sternlicht for on 2.28.06