A great Huffington post article “Over-Exercising or Simply Burned Out: The Seven Serious Signs” by Amanda Russell
Yes there can be too much of a good thing — how to know when to lay off the exercise.
For most of the world, getting motivated to exercise, or getting ‘enough exercise’ is one of life’s greatest challenges, however, there is a small percentage (often the type that spends their Internet surfing time reading fitness blogs like this one), that actually struggle with the opposite of this… we exercise too much. Yes, exercise actually becomes an addiction and we don’t listen to our bodies when they are telling us it’s just too much. Most of society is so trained to believe that exercise is a great thing (and it is), and that more is better, but I’m telling you, like all things in life, too much of a good thing, is simply not good.
This is a very personal article for me, because it is something I have always struggled with myself. My entire life I have loved to be active, to sweat, to get that endorphin high you can only match with a good hard workout, but I am very aware that I walk a fine line. I can easily get carried away, trying to squeeze in more time, harder intervals, the list goes on — but bottom line, I don’t know when to give my body a break. Correction, I do technically ‘know’ — heck, my entire profession is based around health and fitness and I know my body better than most, and yet I still struggle with establishing the right balance between healthy, moderate exercise, and pounding it into the pavement much too hard without adequate recovery, and suffering a host of consequences, ranging from mild to severe.
I think about this a lot, it’s a strange phenomenon, but once exercise is in your blood, in your regular routine, you simply feel ‘off’ when you skip it. I know how moody and irritable I become when I don’t get my daily sweat session, and that’s a good thing if it gives you motivation to keep up with a consistent and balanced routine (key word: balance). The problem occurs when you lose the ‘balance’ part of the equation and your workouts start consuming too much of your time, interfering with your daily life, and/or your body is not adequately recovering, and you simply don’t know how to take a break.
If you are reading this and relating to any of what I’m talking about, or if you are feeling burned out, tired and lacking motivation, check out my list below of some of the ‘not so obvious’ signs that you may be over-exercising. And please, don’t overlook or deny the facts. Even if deep down you know it’s time to take action to slow down, it will not be easy, it will require willpower and the discipline (yes discipline) to ease off, but it is crucial to long-term success and happiness.
Your body needs at least 1-2 rest days per week, and if you are at a burnout stage you may need a few weeks to a month to just chill out. I promise, contrary to what we think, taking a little time off will not reverse all your hard work, it will not make you an overweight blob, if anything, it will re-energize you and make you more excited (and balanced) when you are ready to pick it back up again. I am constantly reminding myself of that too — it helps!
Without further adieu, here are your ‘check yourself’ signs:
Your Workout Leaves you Exhausted vs. Energized
If you finish your workout feeling like you need a nap, rather than revitalized and ready to conquer the next thing, you are likely pushing it too hard, or too long and need to assess and scale back those workouts.
You Are Inexplicably Irritable and Moody
If little things are setting you off, and you can’t figure out why your fuse is short or your moods are so funky, this could be a sign that your body is worn down and fatigued bodies/minds have trouble getting through even the smaller things. Your body is screaming for a vacation from exercise, take one!
You’re Sleeping Too Much or Can’t Sleep!
Are you restless and unable to sleep through the night no matter how tired you feel? Or, does it not matter how much sleep you get — you still feel tired? Both of these can be caused by over-training. When you exercise too much, your body can interpret it as a stressor, sending out stress hormones like cortisol that makes sleeping difficult. On the flip side, over-training can actually make some people more tired than normal. Sleep is the time when the body and brain repairs itself, so if you’re pushing it too hard, your body might be telling you that it needs more rest that you’re giving it.
Telltale sign: Tired and dragging during day, then trouble sleeping through the night.
You Have ‘’Heavy’’ Legs
Rather than walking or jogging with ease, your legs feel like dead weights. Heavy, tired and overly fatigued legs (or arms) can be caused by muscles that just haven’t had enough time to fully recharge and repair.
You Get Sick Frequently or Can’t Seem To Recover
When you over-exercise you break your body and immune system down, so you are more susceptible to getting sick, or it takes you longer to recover.
Sore for Days at a Time
Rather than bouncing back from a tough workout, your body is constantly aching or sore — warning, you need to step back and allow it to repair itself.
You Feel Unmotivated and/or ‘Blue’
Workouts now seem like an obstacle you ‘have to do’ — you are unmotivated, unexcited and it’s starting to affect other areas of your life. It seems ironic since exercise has been shown to boost feel-good endorphins, but over-training has been linked to a decrease in energy and mood, so you need to relax and restore.
As I stated above, many people don’t push themselves hard enough. Others, (I am guilty of this), tend to ‘over do it’ or have trouble taking a break from exercise, both problematic in their own ways. If you are like me, I encourage you to ‘check yourself,’ take these signs seriously, and re-assess your workout routine and your life. At the end of the day, life is too short to go through it fatigued, moody and exhausted — and definitely too short to spend all of it in the gym!