Over-exercise can happen without us being aware. Sometimes we turn good things, like working out, into god things in our life. In today’s episode with Clare Smith, we are going to talk about over-exercise, rest, how much is too much, and how to steward your body well.

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Claire, I am so excited that you’re here. This season we’re talking about the impact of stress. How many workouts can you do? How hard can you go? Input-Output? How many calories can you eat and be negative, right? 

I don’t think we realize how much it impacts us on a whole-body level. I would love for you to talk about what it means to over-exercise. Because I didn’t know my threshold and it didn’t matter if I was tired, I’m going to go do that workout

So why don’t you about over-exercising?

Working Out versus Movement


Over-exercising is a real thing. Obviously, as a health coach, I’m a fitness instructor and have been in this world for almost 20 years. I know what it feels like to have a high standard of wanting to achieve and exercise. 

Here’s what I say. When you’re younger, you have a bit more metabolic flexibility for your body to handle that type of stress. I will say as you get older, there’s so much more than you have with emotional stress. Also, your body’s hormones to where you’re just not able to recover in that regard.

So over-exercising is just one of those things. We have to be careful. I do think before we start into this, I would like to define and differentiate between exercise versus movement. I do think that moving our bodies every day. That can mean just upstairs, down the stairs, going on a gentle walk, standing when you’re working, or fidgeting.  

This is a great thing for us to be thinking about all the time because our bodies were made to move. But exercise is a different type of an amped-up level of that, right? So it’s this intensity, it’s this desire to get out there and push it and burn it. And whatever way that is, that is what we’re talking about. We can over-exercise.



I’m glad you clarified that because even the levels of exercise and intensity are important. We’re not saying to not do a workout, we’re just saying to do a bodyweight workout instead.


That’s right, it’s still caring for your body. I know people hate this because they want a formula, but it’s individual. You’ve got to decide for your own life in your own body. I will tell you as a fitness professional and as somebody who’s done this works out, I do not think you need to be working out 7 days a week. 

I shoot for four to five intense days and then others just be movement-based or not having any type of specifics for what I’m doing that day. Give time for your body to get healthy and rest because it will backfire on you.

I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that – when you have periods you’re there for exercise. You think it will help you feel more energetic, help stop your cravings and lose weight, but what you start to find is the exact opposite (especially with over-exercising). Have you ever experienced that at all?



Yeah. I never realized the impact of emotional or physical stress before. I didn’t recognize that stress is stress and your body doesn’t recognize specific stress. It just knows that it’s working hard to live that way or to run that six miles. And I never took lack of sleep or anything into consideration. Over-exercising made me more exhausted and hold on to a lot more things.


That’s so good. So let’s go here – how do you even know if you’re over-exercising? That’s one of the questions I ask when women are coming to me for any health coaching. Here are some physical markers that we can look at. Look at hormone imbalance, which when you’re younger you may not necessarily feel that, but as somebody now who’s in her low 40s, I feel that. 

So you can know that you’ve got your hormones out of whack, which means your periods might be unstable, they may not be happening, a whole bunch of issues. 

So you’ve got to think about how your body responds in that regard. You may gain weight. If your body is starting to hold on to weight it could be because you are over-exercising. Let’s talk about the mental phase. If you have negative self-talk, if every time that you go to work out, you tell yourself that you’re not good enough or that you’ve got to push harder and longer. 

If you start finding that type of internal self-talk then you may be over-exercising because you’re not being pulled towards freedom, it’s a burden on you in that regard mentally. 

So you feel stuck and rigid in your workouts, you might be over-exercising a little bit. Now let’s talk about exhaustion. Exercise should be stressful and that’s good. Stress is not a bad thing. It gets us up and going in life and helps us to push and achieve. There’s just that balance there. 

Then finally, injuries. If you are getting injury after injury, if your body constantly feels beat up and is not recovering well, I would say you might be over-exercising and you might need a season of rest.


Can we talk about rest for a minute? Because I know often when people think of rest the fear comes in of gaining weight or losing muscle.  And a lot of people see opposite results because their bodies can’t stop holding on to the stress, holding on to cortisol, their adrenals aren’t allowed to rest or they’re not pumping out all these extra things with adrenaline. 

Can you talk a little bit about rest and how it’s good for our bodies so that they can calm the fears of weight gain and loss of muscle?


Absolutely. I have a lot to say about rest because as somebody again was a high achiever, you attribute hard work and movement to getting your goals. So to have rest was not forward motion. It didn’t feel like you were moving forward on anything. It felt wasteful. So you carry that into your adult life. But let’s go from a biblical standpoint – we know that God, our creator, had rest. And if it was important for Him in some regard to rest after His work, then our bodies indeed, in a similar parallel way, need that as well. It is something that we have been mindful of. 

I will ask this, it’s hard to question, but if I would ask you to stop and decrease the number of times in a week that you work out by two days and you feel something come up within you to say, “that’s scary to me,” I would pause and start to ask yourself why that’s the case. Why does rest appear to be a weakness? 

I would then encourage you to step into that because that’s probably the exact sign that you may be idolizing exercise. Now, I also will say this, I think that people have this theory that exercise keeps the pounds off, but you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. So people feel they’re losing days, because if they stopped working out, what if we adjust our focus to nutrition? Are we eating whole foods? Foods that are not inflammatory? Those that don’t cause us to have cravings? 

Your body needs a break. Shift that passion over to your meal planning and to being smart about fruits and vegetables and water and let your body rest on those days and you will find that your body will thank you. What the rest has done for me is it makes me excited to engage in exercise again, otherwise I will burn out fast. 

This exercise of taking care of your body is essentially a lifelong process. In some way, shape, or form, we’ll be moving our bodies, hopefully, until the day we die. So if you think of a long, long race, we’ve got to be able to simmer that down a little bit and keep it at a steady pace so that we can engage this process for a long time. So rest helps me stay engaged.

Frequency versus Consistency


Something else I’d like to talk about is frequency. It’s about consistency. So someone might commit to doing five days a week, then they don’t do five days. That makes them feel like a failure.


I think the challenge is that we have to untrain a lot of what we learned when we were younger. It’s a process, it’s messy. I also think you have to take into consideration your personality. I do a lot of work with people with Myers Briggs and all of those different things because God has wired each of us to process and function freely and better. 

There’s something to be said for some who prefer a little bit more structure while others don’t want to be pinned down. I think there’s wisdom in knowing yourself; we must know ourselves to lead ourselves best. But you’ve got to be open and honest with yourself in that so you don’t over-exercise.

If you’re not sure if you’re over-exercising, ask your family and friends, ask your husband or your wife, and say, “Hey, do you think I’m out of balance in this area?” You could also apply that to how you’re eating; you could apply that to different areas. We often don’t see the reality in front of us. That’s just human nature. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit opens us and helps us to see that. But if that’s not a regular practice in your life, to come before God and ask Him to search you so that you can improve yourself, sometimes we have to step in and have our circles speaking to us. 

That’s humble and hard work because they actually might say, “I think you might be over-exercising a little too much or hyper-focused on something”. You’ve lost the main point. Here’s the thing. The reason that you’re taking care of your body is to improve your life, honor God, and serve others well. 

What I find is when you’re this over-exercising high stress, you’ve become too self-focused. I would encourage you to get with your loved ones and ask them to be kind about it. But just say, “Hey, how am I doing in this area?” Because at the end of the day, we take care of ourselves and we steward our health because our bodies are a gift from God to engage the work that He’s called us to do.


I would love to park for a minute on one of the things that you said about knowing your personality type. I think as the church we deny ourselves. After all, Scripture tells us to deny self. And then we hear things like that and we think we’re supposed to have no feelings – to know myself feels like I’m making it about myself. 

And we become so disconnected from ourselves and our feelings that it hinders our healing journey. It’s hindering our relationships because we’re afraid to confront things. I’d like you to talk about how it’s not about knowing yourself to figure out all the answers from yourself. It’s about recognizing what God has given you and your capacity and your abilities to be able to steward them well. 

I would love to hear your perspective on that because it’s just a tangled mess.

Stewarding Your Body


You can’t address or change or improve what you don’t know. If you’re blind and turning your eye to whatever’s going on in your life, those patterns become our reality in life. We have to use wisdom for us to influence those around us. This is where the Christian aspect will come different than those in the secular. But for us to lead ourselves to influence the kingdom because we believe everything is God’s pure stewardship. 

It’s stewardship of the body. It’s stewardship of the gifts that God has given us. And so how are we supposed to steward something if we don’t know what that is?

I also was saying how’s it going for you if you have no idea what your tendencies are? Ask those around you how it’s going as well. It might be one of those things where it’s like that person is a weapon that is out there destroying things because they will not put up a mirror to examine themselves. And we believe that it is Biblical to put ourselves open before God and allow Him to do the work of sanctification and growth. There’s absolutely a balance like everything else that we talked about here like with exercise and focus on nutrition and what we do with our money and our gifts. 

We’re all trying to work this out while we’re here in these human flesh bodies with all these factors going into it. But it’s absolutely important for us because it helps us to maximize the time here that we have on this earth. 

After all, it truly is limited. We have a big mission in front of us. Why would I spend it obsessing about myself constantly? Let’s work through my things. God will lovingly take me through these processes to glorify Him. And that’s compelling and you don’t have to do it alone, which is even better.


So Claire, how would you like to wrap up this conversation and encourage women moving forward with over-exercise?


At the end of the day, this word can have a negative connotation in Christian circles, but it’s “confidence.” It’s the confidence that you’ve heard from the Lord. That’s what we’re looking for – that you have heard from God. That you feel that you’ve built a plan (that can be loose or scheduled depending on where you are) and what it looks like for you to be this woman who is coming engaged with life. 

Not looking to the left or right, not making any excuses or needing permission, and just being able to step into it and understand, this is my season. These are the resources God has given me. We know enough about health at this point that each one of us is very intricate. There are different things that one person can do that the other can’t do.

I also think we have to be aware of the influences. This is also a conversation about social media. We really, truly have to watch what is informing us and what then is forming us. Because if we are constantly watching Instagram videos or we’re following different people, and these are people who you absolutely can respect and love.

People ask if I ever compare my body do I ever want to exercise more? Absolutely. I mean, I’m over 40 so there are things about my body that were not the same 10 years ago. So I’m not going to pretend that those things don’t come up with me it is, however, what am I doing with that information? When does it come? How am I able to release that to see it is what it is? 

Sometimes it can be an encouragement and motivation for me to say, “Do you remember that fighter you had in you? Have you gotten a little lazy and protective of yourself or are you dominating yourself in that regard?” So it’s this journey that I invite people to step into and just relax. Remember the big picture. We are “human beings” is what I like to say, we are not just “human doers” that are just good robots. We are beings created in God’s image, breathing with the Holy Spirit.

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