Most of us are used to being told by doctors, friends, fitness influencers, and magazines that we should be exercising more, but did you know you can be exercising too much?
“You can overtrain quite easily if you have poor nutrition, poor sleep, and lots of stress—your body just won’t tolerate it,” says Dr. Donna Copertino, a chiropractor specializing in rehabilitation and the owner of Back in Action. Especially if you’re a beginner, it’s easy to overdo your workouts.
Copertino explains that some kind of movement every day is important for overall health, but one or two days should focus on recovery so that your muscles are getting the rest they need to repair and strengthen.
“Think about building up to whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish,” says Shauna Harrison, Ph.D., a public health expert and certified group fitness instructor. “We all want to get to the goal quicker than we need to. That tendency gets us in trouble. A lot of it comes down to really checking in with yourself mentally, emotionally, and physically on a daily basis.”
Here are physical, mental, and emotional warning signs your body will signal to you if you’re exercising too much. And for more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out our list of 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
If you’re getting between seven and nine hours of sleep each night (kudos!), but you wake up and your body still feels run down, it might be telling you that you’re exercising too much. Some folks also have trouble falling asleep or sleeping soundly when they’re overexercising. Here are 13 Food Hacks That Will Help You Sleep Better Tonight.
Muscle strains, pulls, inflammation, and stress fractures are all types of common sports injuries that can occur with too much exercise.
“I see an accumulation of tension in the muscles, whether it’s tightness or pain or loss of motion—that’s a precursor to an injury and usually the first sign of overuse,” says Copertino.
To reduce your risk of these injuries, incorporate dynamic stretching and flexibility training into your workout sessions. You can also switch up your workouts so you’re not just doing one kind of training (like running or cycling).
“Cross-training helps reduce the risk of injury when it comes to over-training because you’re moving your body in different ways and it won’t lead to repetitive stress injuries,” says Harrison. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t overtrain! Proper recovery and rest are key when it comes to staving off injuries.
Many of us are already under a lot of stress just from challenges in our day-to-day work and home lives. Exercise is a form of good stress, but as we know, you can have too much of a good thing. By putting your body under constant stress, your immune system can be affected, according to Harrison. Then if you’re exposed to bacteria or viruses that your body would normally fight off effortlessly, you’re more susceptible to getting sick. Womp, womp.
Not every symptom of overexercising is physical! Your mental health can be affected, too.
“I see patients that will have fatigue—they’ll just feel tired and some level of depression,” says Copertino. This can take different forms, but if you’ve been exercising a lot these days and you (or your loved ones) have noticed that your moods seem different, it’s worthwhile looking into and taking the proper recovery and rest that your body and mind are craving.
Whether you have a meditation practice or you unwind by binge-watching your favorite nostalgic TV show, taking mental rest is just as important as the physical kind.
When you exercise, your body needs calories after to give you energy for the rest of your day.
“Your body and your hormones can get off track and can cause you to gain weight or lose weight,” says Harrison. If you’re overdoing it on the exercise, you might also end up overdoing it on the post-workout snack, thanks to the hunger hormone ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with adding an extra scoop of ice cream or another slice of almond butter toast, routinely eating past fullness can leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable.
It’s important to practice mindful eating so you know your body’s cues when it’s full. On the other hand, make sure that you’re getting enough calories post-workout. Under-eating can make you feel groggy and can slow down your fitness progress.
Have you ever been to the gym and started your workout, only to dread it after five minutes? You might be hitting it too hard. While these kinds of feelings can come and go throughout your fitness journey, if you’re having an abnormally difficult time mustering up motivation, take it easy.
“Signs like these people often don’t pay attention to and they think, “I just need to train harder,” says Harrison. But that’s not the case. By pushing yourself through a workout that you absolutely don’t want to do, you’re more likely to have improper form and get injured.
If you’ve been on your fitness A-game for months (or even years) but you stopped seeing the results you were working toward, whether that’s lifting heavier, better endurance, a better mood, weight loss, and more, you might be doing too much of a specific kind of training. After your body adapts to a specific kind of workout, many times you’ll stop seeing results. That’s why, as we’ve mentioned before, it’s important to take time for stretching, proper hydration, and flexibility training.
“Don’t underestimate what a rest day can do for you,” says Harrison. “Time and time again, when I take multiple rest days, I come back and see how much stronger I am.”
Once you start working out, don’t fall for these 15 Exercise Mistakes That Are Ruining Your Workout!