It’s no wonder the world is currently obsessed with high intensity exercise. Modern society encourages a “go, go, go” mentality and overwork is not only common, but even expected. This leaks into the world of health and fitness, and women hoping to lose or maintain their weight often find themselves encouraged to pursue high intensity exercise as a quick fix or an “easy” way of doing so. It’s mindless and simple to get lost in the endless barrage of social media HIIT fitness challenges and to adopt the “more is better” mentality. Women, though, are NOT small men, and as more recent research has proven, we know now that our bodies are not physiologically capable of enduring high levels of strenuous exercise on a regular basis without negative consequences over time. But could your under-eye puffiness, skin eruptions and constipation be related to overtraining?
While the Western world tends to view the body through the specifics of its separate parts, Eastern tradition instead approaches all matters with the understanding that the body is a complex and interrelated series of systems working together to maintain balance. We can learn a lot from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the concept of “qi.” Roughly translated, this concept equates to an eternal life force energy. While many cultures and modalities around the globe recognize this concept through different lenses (chi, ki, Shakti, Kundalini, the Great Spirit, and so on), what each of these shares is the belief that a deficiency in this life force energy has a negative impact on health.
The amount of times I’ve heard the word “burnout” used to refer to a finisher at the end of a programmed workout — well, the limit does not exist. That “burn” is often attributed to a successful training session and most women approach their workouts with the mentality that anything less than this “burn” would “not be enough.” The truth is, this burn can actually be attributed to a buildup of acid in your bloodstream.
Yes, you read that correctly: that burn, that heavy sensation you feel in your legs after the viral 12:3:30 treadmill workout or your favorite influencer’s hamstring-focused leg day, is a result of the accumulation of lactic acid in your muscles that happens as a result of intense exercise.
The body is able to convert lactic acid to oxygen, but when the acid is produced in greater levels than the body can burn off, a buildup occurs. This leads to excessive soreness that lasts many days after working out.
Excess lactic acid buildup can result in under-eye puffiness, unsightly skin eruptions and constipation, which may be a symptom of overburdened kidneys. All fluids of the body’s many pathways pour into the kidneys. At rest, the kidneys also work to eliminate lactic acid from the blood. In TCM, each organ governs an organ system which plays a greater role as part of the functioning systems of the body. The kidney is the powerhouse of the body, housing a sort of reserve of qi to fuel any organ system running low on qi to support your body in its daily activities. Think of this reserve like a bank account or emergency fund: you deposit energy for use when needed. When we overtrain and deny our bodies much needed rest, we are essentially squeezing from that future reserve and depleting the stores we will need to achieve optimal health and longevity. Supporting the kidneys will not only provide relief.
Moderation is your BFF in terms of sustaining kidney qi. A consistent and balanced life with a focus on reducing stress and prioritizing rest allows the body to truly reach states of optimal healing. Of course it is normal to have periods of high stress, but ultimately building good qi means building the body’s resilience so that energy may flow freely and allow for the body to easily bounce back from these stressful periods.
Nourishing the kidneys is also key — they can only work but so hard to clear out the excess toxins and waste from your body without a little help. Hydration and mineral replenishment are especially important to support these powerful detox organs. Adaptogens and herbal allies such as parsley, ginseng, dandelion root, saw palmetto berries, and Schisandra berries can work to increase the kidney’s resilience to toxic load and adding in certain supplements such as CoQ10 can assist in the production of kidney-protective antioxidants.
Maria Villaman is a women’s health expert, energy healer and freelance writer from New York City. Her focus is on balancing information with practicality; helping the modern woman find calm in their day to day through the comfort of sacred and ancient wisdom. You can find her on IG @bymariavillaman or at www.bymariavillaman.com.