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The Biggest Mistake I See People Make When They Exercise...

By: Carleen Saeger, M.S., OTR/L, FNC, RYT-500hr, Reiki Master/Teacher, USAT L1

Empowering You to Thrive in Life!

Integrative, Functional, & Holistic Occupational Therapist and Life & Wellness Coach

Functional Nutrition Counselor | Registered Yoga Teacher | Reiki Master/Teacher | Endurance Coach | Entrepreneur

Blended Family Mom of 5 Kiddos | Gluten and Dairy-Free Life

We all know that regular exercise is essential for our health and well-being. The CDC advises that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise as well as 2 strength sessions per week. 

The biggest mistake I see people make is that they do too many high intensity workouts. Why is this bad? You’re supposed to feel the burn and hit it hard at the gym, right? Well, too many high intensity workouts can actually have the opposite effect than you’re probably going for and may have an overall negative effect on your health leading to:

  • Mitochondrial impairment

  • Disturbances in blood sugar

  • Disturbances in insulin production

  • High cortisol levels

  • Stress on our joints

What does all this mean for you? Too much high intensity exercise can actually disrupt your metabolism and set you up for a whole slew of negative health effects like weight gain (and difficulty losing weight), high blood pressure, sleep disturbances and so much more! 

So, how much is too much? Well, remember that the CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (e.g. 30 minutes, 5 days per week). That recommendation reduces when the intensity of the exercise increases. According to the study linked here, “90 min of HIIT per week was well tolerated, whereas 152 min per week was associated with maladaptations.” What does that mean in terms of your workouts? If you’re going to hit it hard at the gym, keep it short (30-ish minutes) and only about 3 days per week. Also, be sure to include a couple of strength training days using bodyweight (e.g. yoga), hand weights, or machines, for example. As always, make sure to get enough sleep, properly fuel your body with nutrition, build in rest days, and mix in meditation and stretching. 

Even as a triathlon and endurance coach, the bulk of my athletes' training occurs in lower or middle heart rate zones and is supplemented with other types of workouts. High heart rate zone training is specifically reserved for focused workouts that comprise the minority of their training hours. 

Being all that said, these are guidelines. Specifics for your personal goals and body given your medical history should be discussed with a professional. If you want to learn more about working with me to coach you through a complete wellness or sport-specific program customized to your body and needs, send me an email to arrange a free discovery call.

Flockhart, M., Nilsson, L. C., Tais, S., Ekblom, B., Apró, W., & Larsen, F. J. (2021). Excessive exercise training causes mitochondrial functional impairment and decreases glucose tolerance in healthy volunteers. Cell metabolism, 33(5), 957-970.


Carleen is a holistic, integrative, and functional Occupational Therapist, Life & Wellness Coach, Functional Nutrition Counselor, Yoga Teacher, Reiki Master/Teacher, and Endurance Coach. She is an entrepreneur and owner of Empower Wellness & Rehabilitation where she helps people thrive in their lives by blending the best of Eastern and Western science and wisdom into her work with clients. In her personal life, she is a wife and blended family mom to 5 incredible children (2 biological daughters and 3 stepsons) and 3 dogs! She loves spending time with her family, downhill skiing, lake life, cycling, running, swimming, yoga, working out, and traveling.

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