Too often we encourage people to “Work Out!” “Be Fit!” “Run a mile!” I’m pretty sure we can go on and on. One of the things I noticed missing from these demands is the advice to exercise with caution. With America becoming obsessed with fitness, we’re beginning to see tons of people who are either exercising wrong, or even exercising too much. Yes, exercising too much is a very real possibility.
Here are a few tips to recognizing that you may be doing too much:
1. Decreased Performance
A decline in your workout performance is one of the first “red flags” of overload. If you exercise daily, but you recently feel less than motivated to work out, it could be your body giving you a signal that you actually need to take a break. Take a few days or even a week off and see if your motivation returns.
2. Disinterest in Exercise
A significant decrease in motivation or enjoyment of the activity can be a major sign of burnout.
3. Mood Changes
Depression, anger, confusion, anxiety and irritability are common when your body is over stressed physically. Those same stress hormones you release when you’re emotionally stressed are also released when you’re physically overloaded. If the slightest things start to upset you, it could be due to over-exercising. When we’re tired and worn out, it’s much easier for the little stuff to get under our skin than it would if we were well rested. Sometimes you just need to take a break and get some rest and relaxation!
4. Delayed Recovery Time
Constant muscle soreness that lasts for hours or even days after your workout is an indication you need more rest. Exercise should make you feel good and give you an energy boost. Sure, you may feel tired immediately after a tough workout, but if you leave the gym exhausted or tired, it might be a sign that you’re doing too much. If you’re not getting that feel good rush, which is one of the awesome perks of being active, it’s time to take a look at your activities and see what your body may be telling you.
5. Elevated Resting Heart Rate
When you put more stress on the heart, it has to work a lot harder. Most really fit people have a resting heart rate sub 50 or 60 bpm. An increase in your normal resting heart rate, say, from 50 beats per minute to 65 beats per minute, could indicate that you’re placing excessive stress on your body. Check yours: if you’re in great shape, but your heart rate is significantly higher than expected, you may want to give your body a break from exercise.
Mental or being physically overwhelmed is a sure-sign of over-training. Try taking a few days off. After you return to your fitness routine, make sure to include a schedule with rest days built in. Keeping a proper balance of exercise and rest will help you to feel less fatigued.
You’re unable to sleep or you can’t seem to get enough sleep. When we exercise too much, our bodies can interpret that as a stressor, sending out stress hormones like cortisol that can make going to sleep difficult. Sleep is a time when the body and brain recovers, and if you’re pushing it too hard, your body might be telling you that it needs more rest that you’re giving it.
8. Diminished Appetite
A decrease in appetite can occur in the middle to later stages of over-training, and goes hand in hand with feelings of fatigue and lack of motivation. By slowing down bodily processes like metabolism, the body attempts to force a reduction in its workload.
9. Fat Gain
If you’ve lost weight but noticed an increase in body fat, you could be in the later stages of exercise overload. The body responds to prolonged stress by elevating levels of stress hormones, including cortisol. Over time this will lead to increased storage of adipose tissue, as well as inhibit steroid-like hormones that normally help increase muscle. A decrease in muscle mass can cause you to shed a few pounds, but this isn’t a good thing since it means your body’s less efficient at burning fat.
10. Weakened Immune System
Most healthy and fit people tend to have a fairly good immune system, rarely getting more than a mild cold every so often. When you exercise regularly, your body is constantly using energy and working to repair those muscles. This means that when you come in contact with a bacteria or a virus, your immune system isn’t able to give 100% to fighting off that cold or flu. So you get sick and can stay sick longer if you don’t give your body the time off it needs to take care of itself.
Keep in mind, your body is this phenomenal machine that performs many different tasks. As with any machine, if you don’t provide it with proper care, it’ll eventually lead to issues, some bigger than the other. Speak with your physician, consult a trainer, and listen to your body. Don’t over-do it. Rest is a Good thing!