Go big or go home is great and all, but when it comes to working out, there definitely can be too much of a good thing. If you go hard all the time, you run the risk of overtraining—and could soon get sidelined from your exercise routine due to fatigue, nagging aches, or a serious injury.
Overtraining can happen to anybody, whatever your workout of choice happens to be, says Aaptiv Trainer Ben Green. And, this time of year is prime time for overdoing it.
“People get spring fever—they’re eager to get outside, and a lot of people dive in head-first,” he says. “You can see more injuries because of that, versus taking a softer approach and following a gradual plan.”
As a general rule, varying your workouts can help you avoid overtraining. “Someone who hasn’t been exercising much lately might be intimidated to go outside their workout comfort zone and do something else to cross-train, but it’s really important,” says Green.
Whether you’re into running, biking, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), or something else, do something different at least one or two days per week.
Also, make a point to always take at least one full rest day—and that means no yoga either!—per week, says Green. If possible, schedule it for the weekend so that you can reap a full mental recharge, too.
Here are five signs that you’ve been overdoing it—plus Green’s tips to reset your routine and sidestep injury.
If you’ve had a super-intense HIIT session or long marathon-training run, feeling drained for a day or two is totally expected. However, if that fatigue stretches out for a full week (or longer), your body may be telling you to get more rest and relaxation.
Think about what your workouts have been like for the past week. “If you’re tired at the end of an intense cycle, that kind of comes with the territory,” he explains. “But, if you’re in a recovery cycle, [yet] feel exhausted every day, you clearly aren’t getting what you need to recover. That’s a strong sign [that] something is not aligning.”
If you’re working hard in the gym, but are not seeing any improvement (or you’re noticing that your performance is going downhill), that’s a sign that you might be pushing it too hard, says Green.
The problem might be that overtraining leads to a state of decreased glycogen stores (your muscles’ go-to source of energy), which leaves your limbs feeling heavy and sluggish, according to research published in the journal Sports Health.
Picking fights with your pals? Crying uncontrollably at the drop of a hat?
“If you’re training too hard, you might not be getting the best nutrition or enough sleep either,” says Green. “All of those components together affect your mood.”
Plus, overtraining can throw your central nervous system out of whack and increase your levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, which can cause fatigue, irritability, and depression, according to the Sports Health findings.
The same hormones and nervous system stress that might be leaving you moody or feeling down could also be affecting how well you sleep (or keep you from snoozing at all).
Skimping on z’s is more than just annoying. It can also diminish your exercise results, too, as your muscles rebuild themselves and get stronger while you rest.
Training in overdrive, especially when you’re not stretching or giving muscles enough rest, puts a lot of strain on muscles, tendons, and other soft tissue.
That can lead to recurring aches like plantar fasciitis (pain under your heel), shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, lower-back pain, and knee pain, says Green.
You don’t want to ignore it; an innocent ache can quickly evolve into a more serious overuse injury, like a stress fracture—which will put you completely out of commission for some time.
If you think you’re overtraining…
Stop what you’re doing and take a few days off. “People might think [that] they’ll lose fitness, but you don’t really lose much fitness after a few days,” Green says. “You might get agitated, but it’s not that big of a deal.”
In fact, you likely won’t lose any endurance unless you take a full week or two off. Likewise, you can take two, or even three, full weeks off from weight-training before you notice any significant strength losses.
Once you’re ready to jump back into your regular routine, go easy. “Build yourself back up lightly,” notes Green. “You’ll be right back where you were within a week or two.”
If you’re looking for the perfect balance of training, check out the Aaptiv app. We have guided workouts you’re sure to love.