Am I Doing Too Much


Q: I am a 66 year old male — fairly fit — 5’8′ and weigh around 157 (before exercise – biking) and 152 (after) … resting hearth rate around 44 .. I bike quite a bit around 800 – 900 miles / month and Ascending in Average around 40K ft. Average speed of 15 – 16 MPH.  Just wondering if I am doing too much?

Also, on the extreme HR — how long I should maintain above 150 bits /Min.  10 Min or 1 hour ok?

I got concerned after reading the paper by James OKeefe and his Ted talk  …

I also X-C Ski winter times — best I have done is Gold Rush in 3 hours some years ago..




Dear AH,

This is a great question & a lot of people will appreciate the perspective outlined.

On paper, looking at your stats everything looks awesome measured up against generic standards.

Your stats indicate that you are in optimal health, your BMI is optimal, and you have an excellent RHR resting heart rate according to general health standards.

Using generic HR calculations against your age, your average max heart rate (100%) would be between 150-155bpm. I would recommend no more than and average of 10min total for a workout, no more than twice a week-which could very well happen naturally on a hilly ride.

* Note, the 150-155bmp is a gross estimate and will never be as specific as if you were to go to a lab and perform a VO2Max test at your local hospital/cardiac rehab center or sports science institute.

So far, let’s recap:  According to US guidelines, you are in great shape for your age and what you’ve been doing has been working, clinically.

My emphasis on clinically is this: your workouts are doing what they are supposed to in terms of maintaining your fitness, on paper. Looking under the hood, into your physiology, however, may or may not be an entirely different story.

Though we can’t predict if your routine is the best for increasing life longevity, it is very difficult to dismiss the research from James O’Keef and Carl Lavie supporting the notion that exercise Rx lies on a U-shaped curve…too little you won’t benefit, but too much and you subject your heart to micro-tears that become increasingly hard to heal as we age. The fact is, intense exercise expedites cell damage/turnover and induces DNA repair-things that can wear your body down and out, but it’s important to realize too, that, holistically, your quality of life is better when you workout. The question is, how much is best? Particularly now that the number of intense-endurance athletes who die from cardiac abnormalities associated with cardiac overloading is too great for them to be considered outliers at this point.  In summery, if you are at all concerned about how your cardiovascular system is responding to the stress of exercise as you are aging, it is worth contacting your primary healthcare provider to see if they can refer you to a cardiac center who can run some scans and tell you how things are looking…be specific when working with practitioners and explain you are interested in understanding if exercise could be a risk factor in your Troponin T levels.


On to another important element to your routine: I give caution to doing the same activities – especially if you are doing it by yourself everyday. For overall fitness, strength and general health, I would encourage adding workouts that challenge your range of motion so that you are operating in all planes of motion. Skate skiing is a great counter balance to cycling all summer, but I would also add swimming and sports that involve coordination like tennis, racquetball, volleyball, basketball or even badminton. Yoga, of course is great for stretching and strengthening small muscle groups needed for structural health, that get neglected in our typical endurance sport lifestyle. I know it can be a big pill to swallow for someone who has been a solo endurance athlete for years, and for many skiers who are chronic (and ironic) overexercises, but leading research since 2009 does show that multidimensional exercise at the right dosage really is a prescription for higher quality health.


Karmen Whitham M.S.
Exercise Physiologist

Post Workout Insomnia

Q: I often don’t sleep well after a 45-60 minute midday or morning weight lifting workout. I try to stay fueled and hydrated afterwards. My schedule has me doing weights twice a week. I’ll wake up hours early. I’ve read that it’s caused by too much cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. Am I overdoing it? My workout schedule is currently 7-8 hrs wk and I sleep well otherwise after OD or interval workouts. Having a beer in the evening helps but causes other issues like dehydration and some sleep apnea. Should I back off and have more frequent shorter weight sessions, take a sleep aid like chamomile, melatonin, or something else like eating before bed? I’m 47, a fairly fit ectomorph, and am training for some ski marathons.
Mike in AK

A: In general, exercise increases cortisol, norepinephrine and adrenaline which makes it difficult to fall asleep…if your workout is close to bedtime. Since your workout session is morning/midday I would assume that acute hormonal response to exercise is not the culprit to your sleeplessness. However, it is a possibility if your morning session is particularly taxing.

Over-exercising or improper recovery can also cause insomnia. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be quick to diagnose overtraining with just this one symptom. Classic overtraining symptoms include low energy, generally feeling worn out, prolonged muscle soreness, frequently sick, irritability, unintentional weight loss and higher resting heart rate. If you are experiencing more than two of these, you may be overdoing it. In that case, go lighter on your workouts and see if your sleeping and training become better.


If you are not tracking your resting heart rate in the morning, doing so can be a great tool to monitor your body’s internal stress. If you find that your heart rate spikes one morning, that can be a sign that your body has not come back to homeostasis (full recovery). There are several methods for obtaining the resting heart rate. The method I suggest is to lay flat on your back for 3 minutes, then come to standing and stand still for another 3 minutes. Do this first thing in the morning after you wake up. Grab the average heart rate for the total 6 minutes to get your heart rate average for the day.

Sleeping aids are certainly an option, through you don’t want to rely on them. Understanding that they will be a “quick-fix” and may mask underlying sleeping problems is important.

First I would suggest trying to fit the strength session in earlier in the day to see if that changes anything. If you’re still having problems, I would try shortening or lightening your sessions. Next, monitor your morning heart rates for a few weeks to check that they are normal, consistent and within a healthy range for you.

Goodnight and good luck!!

Karmen M. Whitham
CXC Development Coach