Here at The Active Times, we love to tout the benefits of exercise. From better digestion to clearer skin and even a stronger immune system, the right amount of exercise can do wondrous things for our health, but what about when we overdo it?
While some people have a tough time getting regular exercise, others struggle with overtraining. Most regular exercisers don’t need to worry about overtraining, but those training for major fitness events or spending upwards of five hours a week in the gym are at risk. It’s a thin line between a healthy amount of exercise and a dangerous amount, which can lead to burnout.
A tougher training schedule always means better performance, right? Not exactly—working out too hard or for too long can take its toll. Overtraining is a real issue and pushing too hard can yield less than desirable results. Lousy performance, stalled progress and even susceptibility to injury are all a result of overtraining, when your edge in the gym starts to slip, it might be time for a break.
Maybe little things are getting to you lately and you find you’re often in a bad mood for no particular reason—this shift can be a sign that you’re on the verge of burnout. Exhausted minds and bodies are susceptible to sour moods and have trouble bouncing back from small setbacks. If you’re training hard and often and find that you’re a bit down or short-tempered, you might need to take a few days off from working out.
One of the major benefits that come with getting the right amount of exercise is a great night of sleep; but if you’re pushing your body too hard in the gym, you could be keeping yourself up. A telltale sign of overtraining is a problematic sleep schedule—which means you either sleep too much or you have trouble sleeping at night. When your body needs more time to repair, it can lead you to get too many hours of shuteye. Meanwhile, other people’s bodies react to overtraining as a stressor, which can alter hormone levels and make it tough to sleep at all.
Challenging workouts should certainly take some serious effort and energy, but it you’re leaving the gym feeling completely exhausted each time it’s a sign you’re training too hard, too often. In general, you should have a boost of energy after a workout, but if you need a nap afterward it might be time to take a break and readjust your training schedule.
Anyone who has tackled a tough workout knows the sore feeling that follows for a day or two afterward. While that’s completely normal, it’s not normal to feel sore three and four days later. Ongoing soreness is a sign that your body isn’t getting enough recovery time and your training is taking a toll. Take some time off and schedule regular breaks from the gym to avoid this constant soreness.
Many people use heart rate monitors to help analyze the intensity of their workouts, but did you know heart rate information can be helpful to your training outside of the gym? Resting heart rate can give you insight on workout recovery. Though your heart rate can be affected by factors like caffeine and stress, monitoring in the morning is the best bet for accuracy and an elevated resting heart rate can signal that your body has been working too hard and you might need to take a break.
When you’re close to burnout you might find your mind wandering during your workouts. Ideally when you exercise you should be totally focused and giving it your best effort, but if you’re working out too hard or too often your mind and body might need a break.
For the most part, exercise helps boost and fortify the immune system, but too much of a good thing can be detrimental. Too much exercise puts strain on the body and immune system, which means you’re more susceptible to sickness. On top of that, if you’re sick for a while and have a tough time getting better, overtraining may be responsible for that too. Take some time off to let your body get rid of the illness and get the immune system back to where it should be.
If you’re logging tons of time in the gym, but you’re not seeing any progress than there’s a good chance you’re overtraining. Muscle that’s getting torn in the gym needs time to repair and when you’re not giving your body adequate rest, progress can slow or stall completely—or worse, it can lead to injury.
Making time for rest and active recovery is crucial to progressing safely. Overtraining is linked to an increased risk of injury, particularly recurring injury, so if you find that you’re getting hurt again and again it’s probably time for a break. Switch up your workout and try something low impact to help avoid overuse injury, but don’t forget to work in a few rest days too.