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Q & A

Got a question about some aspect of mind-body-spirit fitness? Ask! It can be as earthly as "Can a heart monitor really enhance my workout?" (the short answer to that is yes) or as heady as, "Don't I need to sell all my worldly goods and go live on a mountain top to find enlightenment?" (the short answer here is no). Needless to say, we can't answer every question we receive, but we will take one every month and answer it here. If you've got a burning need to know about something, email us, and you may find your query featured next time around.

To tone my lower body, I've been running 3 miles a day, five times a week (30 to 45 minutes cardio), along with doing lunges and squats. Every other day, I weight train, but I only do legs one day. Is this okay, or am I doing too much?

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Chances are you will get better results if you do not work so hard. Even though you're not using extra weight when you do those squats and lunges, you are using your full body weight for these moves, and that is quite a load to do every day. The biggest muscles in your body are contained in your legs, and when you work those muscles, they need ample time to recover. When you do resistance training, whether you are using weights or movements like squats and lunges, you are actually tearing muscle fibers. It sounds bad, but it's not - you want to tear them, because when they heal they grow stronger and increase in mass. But if you continue tearing at those fibers without giving them a chance to heal and grow, they end up weakening and the power of your workouts suffer accordingly. When you overtrain, you also open yourself up to injury, which could possibly put you on the sidelines for months. You can tell if you're overtraining your legs if they're constantly sore and you can't run as fast or as far as you were. Are you starting to dread your workouts? Do you feel fatigued all the time? Do you find you are using less weight on your weight training days, or are you completing fewer reps before tiring out? These are more symptoms of overtraining.

If you have some of the above symptoms, it's important to take a break right away. Your legs really need healing. If you have soreness (and soreness from overtraining definitely has a different, more ugly feel than regular workout soreness), you must wait for that to go away completely - and then give it some more time - before working your legs again. It can take several weeks to heal if you've really overtrained.

If you don't have any symptoms of overtraining, good - but you still should adjust your workout schedule. The running is fine - run even longer if you feel you can on some days. Instead of doing lunges and squats along with your run, take time for a good, long stretching session when you're done, so your limbs remain flexible and supple (running can really stiffen muscles). Train your legs and lower body with weights once or twice a week - and make them quality workouts. That means 2 to 3 sets of 10-12 reps for each exercise - and when you're done with each exercise, the muscles you have been working should feel fatigued. If you're easily doing 15 reps and you feel like you could still do loads more after the third set, increase your weight load. Incidentally, squats and lunges with dumbbells would be excellent exercises to do on your weight training days. The day after training your legs, you should take a break from running so they have a chance to rest and recover. Remember, resting is the key to getting results. When you give your legs time to recover, you'll be surprised at how much more you're looking forward to your next run. Plus, your legs will tone up more quickly - and that's why you're working so hard in the first place.

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