Weekend Warrior Syndrome - Does exercise binging do any good?

Updated: Jun 8, 2021

If you’ve taken time off from training, you know that you’ll be extremely sore after a workout if you resume with the same workout intensity that you left off with.

Original post: February 3, 2011




A main factor contributing to the soreness is the spontaneous decline in carnosine status and other specialized antioxidants in the muscle due to the low work load in those preceding weeks off.


On the other hand, as the weeks go by and your training has remained consistent your body adapts to the self imposed workload by elevating carnosine levels and improving the status of other important antioxidants.


The weekend warrior syndrome is characterised by sore aching muscles that cannot adapt to training intensity because there’s too much time left in between training sessions. This sort of sporadic training simply puts the body in mere coping mode with each training session as carnosine levels increase for a few days after training but decline before the next weekend comes around again.


It’s like trying to condition for a 20 mile run by running 10 miles once per week. Anyone who’s tried this knows that you cannot build conditioning momentum by embarking on a long run once per week. One might be able to run a few miles with ease with a one or two week break in between sessions. However, if this irregularity is kept up, the body is simply striving and struggling with each session and never gaining incrementally.


In addition to the failure of progression with this sort of sporadic training, each gasping session leaves you exhausted and sore with little euphoria to enjoy the program. This dysfunctional training strategy literally produces oxidative damage with each session to cause more harm and cardiovascular risk than good. The body experiences this constant struggle as physical and mental stress.


Regular training allows for conditioning to advance to the point where the exercise-induced endorphins can eventually be experienced as a positive cognitive experience instead of a pain relieving secretion. In addition, the heart, lungs and skeletal muscles become conditioned enough to tolerate and perform without strain.


Exercise cannot be addictive until this euphoria and physical state (mind and body conditioning) are experienced; and therefore it’s not possible to genuinely enjoy the exercise experience until a reasonable amount of conditioning has developed to alleviate the struggle. Both brain and body benefit from the regular training but the mind, body and emotional state are degraded by the sporadic weekend exercise binge.


Conditioning allows one to challenge oneself beyond the conditioned state in a controlled manner and with the biological tools (namely endogenous antioxidants for one) to be able to tolerate and recover without much adverse pain. Conditioning also has you looking forward to the next training session instead of dreading the pain and strain awaiting the next weekend.


With family life taking priority training regularity is sometimes difficult. Get creative. I have a treadmill and a stationary bike in the theatre room; this way when we’re watching a movie I can be with the family watching while I cycle or run. I keep a stepper machine in the bedroom, this way if I was not able to work out any other time in the day, I can do a 30-60 minute session there at the very end of the day and still be in the same room with my wife if she’s reading in bed or working on her laptop in bed. My full gym is in the home as well and I get into it for resistance training at least three times weekly for a 30 minute session each time. And then there’s the road and park outside that I run through as regularly as I can with my dog.


Multiple opportunities each day and multiple forms of exercise.


I try to commit to one session of one or the other exercise type each day for at least 30 minutes and as long as 60 minutes each time. Some days I might fit a short resistance training session in the morning and be able to do some cardio work that same evening. Change it up but try to work each body part in the resistance training component at least once every three days to keep up the progression cycle and prevent regression of conditioning.


I often take one day per week OFF. And sometimes two days per week are taken OFF if I need more rest or life just doesn’t allow for more.


Get with program.


Stay regular with a frequency of at least THREE times per week (absolute minimum) and preferably FIVE times per week even if it’s for only 30 minutes each time. Not only will you enjoy the experience more, you’ll build confidence and better health instead of pushing mind and body into a dysfunctional struggle each time. Regularity is the key to long term health.


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