There’s a bit of magic that happens when you finally find your fitness groove: You look forward to working out. You get psyched about progress and your energy levels skyrocket. These vibes may push you to push harder and sweat it out more, but it’s important to be mindful not to cross into the overtraining terrain. As Physical Therapist Lauren Lobert, DPT, OMPT explains, working out too much can pose serious threat to your body and health. You run the risk of developing injuries. Additionally, without giving yourself adequate rest, your immune system, mood, and athletic progress will begin to suffer. Here’s how to know if you’re working out too much, and why you should adjust your routine ASAP.
You care more about numbers than how you feel.
When you have your sights set on a goal, you might lose track of how you feel right now. Too often, over-exercisers believe that they have to maintain an exact science of fitness to manage their weight or build strength. But, Jilly McKay, CPT, says getting caught up in the numbers, instead of paying attention to your body can result in added, unnecessary aches and pains. “If you are working out too much, you may start to look at numbers instead of listening to how your body feels. Sore is not a good measure of a good workout,” she explains. Here’s an example: you planned to trek for five miles, but you’re exhausted after three. Do you stop or keep going? While building endurance is important, sometimes it’s better to allow your body—instead of your mind—to lead. So, if you’re feeling physically beat, cap it at three miles and call it a day.
To get on the right track, McKay recommends being honest with how often you can really work out and still feel like your optimal self. A good starting point is three days with varied routines. “You may want to do full body cardio and strength, separated by active rest days where you go for a walk on lunch or walk the dog on your off days,” she says. “If you are aiming for five days a week or more, you can separate your workouts by body parts or conditioning types of workouts.”
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Your resting heart rate is increasing.
When you first start whipping yourself into shape, your doctor won’t only be impressed with your more chiseled physique, but also by your heart rate. Exercise Physiologist and Author Jerry Snider says that, as we build our fitness levels, our heart rate will start to decrease, with an average between 55 and 65 beats per minute (bpm). When you’re in shape, you might even notice it drop below 50. Long-distance runners typically hang out in the mid-40s.
But, when you push your heart a bit too much you’ll see it start to rise. This will happen even when you aren’t exerting energy. That’s why Snider says to take your pulse each morning before you do anything. “If you notice [that] your resting heart rate increases more than just a few beats, in the ten plus bpm range, then you are not giving your body—specifically your heart—enough time to recover,” he says. This is a clear indicator, from a vital organ, that you’re working out too much. Take a breather.
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You can’t finish a workout that you could easily breeze through last week.
You conquered a demanding hour-long sweat and now you feel as if you can accomplish nearly anything. But, if you return to that same routine and you can’t make it through the workout, Snider says that it could be a sign that you’re not resting often enough. Burpees, push-ups, and boxing rounds may have been easy a mere few days ago. However, if you’ve exercised intensely (like with the Aaptiv app) since then, your body isn’t equipped to give it all again. You can avoid this by cross-training, or let yoga or an ab-routine nestle between your cardio-rich workouts, instead.
You’re in a bad mood.
Rocky Snyder, CSCS says that prioritizing fitness over social invites can result in a poor attitude. Sure, while working out gives you those lustful endorphins, you also require downtime. Dinners with pals and Netflix binges are also parts of a happy, fulfilled life. When you only seek comfort or release in sweat sessions, you may become a tad cranky. As Snyder reminds, even athletes have off-seasons, so don’t guilt yourself for never taking a break. “Go play. Have fun. Get away from the workout routine for at least a week and do other activities [that] you didn’t think you had enough time to enjoy, because you were always working out,” he says.
Your body’s cycles are off.
For women, an irregular or missed menstrual period can be a clear indication that you’re working out far too often, according to Certified Health Coach Stacy Caprio. Technically called ‘amenorrhea’—this is when your weight drops too low and your body goes into life-saving mode by halting the production of necessary hormones that cause your period to start. If left untreated, it can lead to serious issues. Caprio suggests limiting the time you work out and decreasing the intensity until you’re in a healthier place.
You’re getting sick more often.
Consider the times that you tend to feel ill. After a cross-Atlantic redeye with coughing passengers around you, when you don’t collect enough Zzzs at night, or when you’re frequently around germs. You can also simply run your body into the ground by working out too much, according to Caprio. “If you’re working out a lot and notice yourself coming down with a cold or getting sick, you should take a step back and assess if the workouts are negatively impacting your health. Exercising too much has a negative effect on the immune system. This makes it more likely for you to get sick,” she advises. “Try balancing your workouts with a few rest days and see if that gives your body more time to heal.”