When it comes to healthy habits, you can have too much of a good thing. Fiber is good for you, but too much fiber is a major diet no-no (if you’ve done it, you know what I’m talking about). Even too much sleep can backfire and hurt your health. And exercise is no exception.
In fact, trading evenings on the couch for marathon calorie-burning or muscle-pumping workouts day after day–without adequate rest–is a surefire way to burn out, hurt your performance and even get yourself injured. While everyone is different and no certain amount of exercise is automatically ”too much,” it’s recommended that you take one to two rest days a week, especially if you’re working out at a really high intensity or with heavy weights. In general, exercising for up to 90 minutes (at a moderate intensity), most days of the week is reasonable and healthy, but you should take into account your fitness level, health status and how your body responds.
You might already be aware of some of the common signs of overtraining, but sometimes the body sends more subtle signs that you’re working out too much. These signs can sometimes be so sneaky that you may not realize your workouts are causing them.
We’ve gathered seven of the unique and misdiagnosed symptoms of overtraining. While none of these is guaranteed to be caused by overtraining (always talk to your doctor), it’s possible that if you’ve been putting in lots of hours at the gym lately, your heavier workouts could be causing these less-than-healthy results.
1. Exercise leaves you exhausted instead of energized.
Exercise should make you feel good and give you an energy boost. Yes, you might feel tired or fatigued right after a tough workout, but if you leave the gym exhausted, tired or generally feeling like you could go home and take a nap, it might be a sign that you’re overdoing it. If you’re not getting that feel-good endorphin rush that’s one of the awesome by-products of being active, it’s time to take a look at your training and see what your body may be telling you!
2. You get sick easily (or it takes forever to get over a cold).
When you exercise regularly, your body is constantly spending energy and working to repair those muscles. This means that when you come in contact with a bacteria or a virus, your immune system isn’t able to give 100 percent to fighting off that cold or flu. So you get sick and can stay sick longer if you don’t give your body the time off it needs to take care of itself. Remember, your body is an amazing machine that does much more than just power your workouts!
3. You have the blues.
Do the workouts you used to love feel more like a chore than anything else? Or do you generally feel down and unmotivated? It may seem counterintuitive since exercise has been shown to boost feel-good endorphins, but overtraining has been linked to a decrease in energy and mood. So if you have the blues, letting your muscles recover for a few days and getting really good sleep might be just what your body really needs. Of course, if you are severely depressed, see your doctor.
4. You’re unable to sleep or you can’t seem to get enough sleep.
How are you sleeping lately? Is your mind racing when your head hits the pillow? Are you unable to fall asleep no matter how many sheep you count or how tired you feel? Are you on the other end of spectrum where no matter how many hours of sleep you clock, you still feel tired? Both of these can be caused by overtraining. When you exercise too much, your body can interpret it as a stressor, sending out stress hormones like cortisol that can make going to sleep difficult. On the flip side, overtraining can actually make some people more tired than normal. Sleep is a time when the body and brain recovers, and if you’re pushing it too hard, your body might be telling you that it needs more rest that you’re giving it.
5. You have ”heavy” legs.
You used to go out for a walk or a jog with a spring in your step! But these days? It seems as if your legs have been traded out for heavy lead; it takes a lot more effort to get going and stay going. Sound familiar? If so, overtraining may be wreaking havoc on your body. 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.
6. You have a short fuse.
If the smallest things set you off or if you’re feeling more irritable than normal, it could be due to over-exercising. When we’re tired and worn down, it’s far easier to let the little stuff get to us than it would if we were well rested. Think of exercise like spending too many hours at work on a big project for weeks at a time. Sometimes you just need a vacation and a break for some rest and relaxation!
7. You’re regularly sore for days at a time.
If you have any of these signs, it’s probably worth cutting back on the intensity, frequency and/or duration of your workouts. Swap an hour run for 30 minutes of easy yoga or trade that high-intensity boot camp for a long walk with your dog. While it might seem like you’re taking time off from your fitness and weight-loss goals, you’re actually doing the opposite: You’re making yourself stronger by giving your body the rest that it’s (subtly) asking for.