How Hard is Too Hard?

I’ll start by saying that my take on this topic may be controversial.

Can you remember a time where you worked out and perhaps pushed it a bit too far?

How do we know how hard is too hard?  How can we maximize our results without hurting ourselves?

The sad fact of the matter is:  Most people will never need this article.  We have biological down-regulators that protect us from hurting ourselves by exhaustion.  However, some people have minds stronger than their bodies.  If you resonate with that, this article is for you.

This is my “This really, really hurts” position.

What is your “Redline?”

Have you ever driven a manual car and punched on the gas hard enough to send the RPM needle into the red?  You know instantly because your engine won’t like it.  

Similarly, our body has a ‘Redline,’ where we are MAXING out our effort.  This is not a sustainable effort.  If you redline an engine for too long, you can cause irreversible damage.  The body is no different.  

As I mentioned, most people will never be able to push their body to this actual point.  Oftentimes, it seems as though we are pushing our body to the brink of exhaustion, when in fact, we have much more left in the tank.

However, it is important to LISTEN to your body and know that if you are truly in danger of exhaustion, overheating, or over-exertion, that you know where this ‘Redline’ is and you don’t exceed it for long.  

Gas Pedal Down

So for a second, let’s imagine you’re an absolute machine (and maybe you are).. How often should you stomp the gas pedal to the floor?

This is a bit of an easy-out, but the responsible answer is, “It depends.”

What is your goal?  How hard are you willing to work to get there?  Not everyone needs to be able to go deep into the pain cave.  However, I think everyone should have the mental fortitude to take themselves there if they choose.  

When you truly train at 100% effort, keep in mind that it should be short and sweet.  For most of us, 100% is truly unfathomable, but we need to remember that there is a summit to our training.  The closer you get to your peak performance, the greater the toll on your body (and mind).  If you are healthy enough to do so, pushing yourself to the max can have tremendous results in a short period of time.

How to Push The Redline Further

“I’m ready to go 100%, Coach!”  ..not so fast, my friend.  What is your plan?

Having a plan for your training session and what you are going to do to recover is extremely important.  My general recommendation is that every workout needs a proper warm up, intense training session, and a cool down period of some kind.

Interval training is one of my favorite modalities of pushing the limits of my workouts.  Having a focused, intense burst followed by ample time to recover is a very efficient form of training that can yield incredible results.

Consistently flirting with the Redline can actually increase your work capacity if you do it correctly.  However, this is where it is important to have the guidance of a coach or someone you trust to help you do it safely.  A good coach will take you to the Redline.  A great coach will take you there, let you recover, and take you back.  

Closing Thoughts

Not everyone needs to train as hard as they can.  Personally, I love the feeling of pushing myself to my limits.  There is a euphoric energy that I get from finishing a workout like this and I find it very rewarding when I’m done.  

You learn a lot about yourself when you push through discomfort and misery to come out the other side victorious.  Each workout you conquer sharpens not only your body but your mind as well.  

Know your limits, but don’t be afraid to approach them.  You are capable of much more than you think. 

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