Getting into the habit of making fitness a regular part of your lifestyle is crucial to your overall health. I, for instance, need something to counterbalance all of the pizza I eat. Alas, as the old adage goes, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Another adage I appreciate is, “Pizza is delicious for breakfast.” (We’ll cover that one another time.) Is there really such a thing as too much exercise? Absolutely. In fact, over-exercising can have serious consequences both mentally and physically. If you experience any of the signs of overtraining, it might be time to take a step back and reexamine your habits.
Remember that when it comes to your fitness, equally as important as (if not more important than) training is rest and recovery. Without it, your training routine is a moot point. Here are some red flags to look out for when it comes to overtraining.
1. You are Overly Fatigued and Even Sluggish
Make no mistake about it: There’s a big difference between being tired from a butt-kicking workout, and being exhausted all the time regardless of how much you sleep. The latter should grab your attention. If you are training too much or too hard, your parasympathetic nervous system could be fried, and this ignites a chain reaction in your hormones: less testosterone, more cortisol (the stress hormone), a harder time maintaining or losing body fat (more on that later), and finally, soul-crushing fatigue.
If you think this might apply to you, know this: One day of rest or active recovery isn’t the answer. You need to think about a more general scale-back across the board.
2. Your Body Constantly Aches
I love when I have an extra tough session in the gym, and I’m sore for the next couple days. I know I did something my body wasn’t used to. Success! But if you’re always achy, sore, or experiencing any other kind of joint or muscle pains, something’s not right. We work out to feel amazing — not to be miserable on the daily. If your training is generally making your body hurt, try taking things down a couple notches.
3. You’re Depressed or Experience Mood Swings
Putting your hormones under too much of the wrong kind of stress can be a recipe for disaster. As with other hormonal disruptions, depression, mood swings, personality changes, anxiety, menstrual problems, and even reduced sexual desire are not uncommon.
4. You’re Insanely Thirsty All The Time
When I say this, I mean that no matter what or how much you drink, you’re still thirsty. This could be a sign of overtraining because when your body enters this state, it starts to use its own muscle for protein — called a “catabolic state.” And this can lead to dehydration. Continue to drink plenty of water, but also importantly, ask yourself if you’re pushing your body too hard.
5. You Feel Worse After a Workout — Not Better
Fitness releases endorphins, and endorphins make you happy. I’m sure by now you’ve experienced that post-workout high, where you’re exhausted but feel oh-so-amazing. If you’re not experiencing this feeling fairly regularly, something might need tweaking. While every workout can’t be perfect, if you feel moody or uncomfortable post-training more often than not, ease up a little.
6. You’re Putting On Unhealthy Weight
Like I mentioned earlier, exercising has all kinds of effects on your hormones; and when you overtrain, your hormones aren’t so happy. Additionally, if you’re currently in a calorie deficit because you’re trying to lose body fat, you might have even more trouble on your hands.
The aforementioned testosterone decrease and cortisol increase affect more than your energy. You can experience a whole host of problems, including trouble with your metabolism, insulin resistance, protein synthesis, and appetite.
This could mean that no matter how hard you train or how carefully you eat, you still look “soft” or “out of shape.” (Obviously, all shapes and sizes are beautiful; but we’re talking about your health here.)
7. You’re Getting Sick More Frequently
Several factors can inhibit your immune system, and overtraining is one of them. Are you experiencing annoying coughs, a runny nose, congestion, or frequent headaches? An overenthusiastic fitness routine might be to blame. Pull back a little and see if your immune system goes back to normal.