What you can (and can’t) out-train

There are some bad habits whose side effects you can beat with exercise — and others you can’t. Stephanie Ayre lists the big ones.

Can’t out-train

1. Poor sleep

One restless night won’t hurt your workout, but a few bad sleeps changes everything: your blood pressure rises, glycogen levels become unstable and you put yourself at a higher risk of heart problems and workout injuries. While exercise does help you sleep better, a hard training session won’t do you any favours if you’re already exhausted. Don’t cheat on sleep.

2. Bad diet

While you can burn off bad eating habits at the gym, a bad diet makes everything harder. An unhealthy diet makes you feel slow and sluggish, leaving you less likely to see results from all your hard work. A calorie deficit diet can also cause reduced muscle tissue
growth and decrease your ability to perform well. Yes, exercise sustains weight loss — but a healthy diet drives it.

3. Chronic stress

If you’re a chronic stress-head, the added physical stress of exercise could be derailing your fitness goals. The stress hormone cortisol has a negative effect on your body fat, muscle development and recovery. Over time, stress wears away at both your mental and physical health. Your energy drains and fatigue and soreness increases. Take some time for yourself and manage your stress with good sleep and a well-balanced diet

4. Poor technique

You’ll get very little benefit bending the wrong way, lifting incorrectly or cheating your reps. The only thing you’ll end up with is an injury. Take the time to learn proper techniques, or ask a PT for help with the exercises that you’re interested in. Smart, safe training is key to quicker results.

Can out-train

1. Sitting all day

We’ve all heard the theory that sitting is the new smoking, and no amount of exercise can overcome its effects. Multiple studies have shown this to be alarmist nonsense — including one by The Norwegian School of Sports Science, which points out that just one hour of exercise a day (even brisk walking) is enough to overcome the detrimental effects of eight hours of sitting.

2. Ageing

It’s inevitable, but there is nothing better than exercise to slow and even reverse the effects of ageing on the body. Oxygenation that occurs during exercise helps your skin regenerate collagen, keeping your complexion youthful and bright. Regular exercise will also help reduce inflammation and aid in weight loss, which all helps combat ageing.

3. A bad playlist

Fact: music makes you work out harder and for longer. We’ve all felt the effects of the Best Playlist Ever TM. But you still don’t need music to work out. Even if you’ve somehow failed to curate the perfect playlist and your tunes of choice are distracting you more than pushing you to smash your records, just ditch the headphones and push on through. It won’t be the end of the world, trust us.

4. A cold

Everyone needs time to rest and recover, but science has shown that people who exercise regularly are more likely to recover from being sick quicker and experience milder symptoms than those who don’t. If you’re not completely bed bound and just feeling a little off, you can actually help your body fight off your illness by exercising at a reduced effort of your normal capacity. Hit the gym, just take it easy.