Most people have a hard time finding motivation to make it to the fitness center, but some struggle with the opposite problem – spending too much time there. Exercise is great for you, but, like many other great things in life (like dessert), it’s possible to get too much of a good thing. Our bodies need one to two days of rest a week, and if you’ve been putting in extremely intense workouts, you might need even more than that. Ramping up your workouts without allowing for adequate rest and adjustment time might lead to fitness gains temporarily, but in the long term, it will wreak havoc on both your fitness and your health.
Look for these signs to know whether you’re pushing yourself too hard during your fitness gym sessions. Notice that most of them are the opposites of the normal effects of exercise.
1. Your performance is decreasing in spite of training.
Training hard should lead to performance gains — with the right balance. You’ll know you’re training a little too hard if performance starts to decline rather than improve, especially during endurance activities like running or cycling.
2. Your workouts are exhausting rather than energizing.
Minus the occasional all-out effort, exercise should feel energizing. If all you feel like doing after your workout is curling up for a nap, you might be pushing yourself too hard or too long.
3. Your legs or arms feel like deadweight.
If it feels like you’re moving your limbs through thick molasses, it’s a good sign you’re not allowing your muscles enough recovery time between workouts.
4. You’re sore immediately or for several days.
Delayed onset muscle soreness is normal when you increase duration, intensity or resistance in your workouts, but if you’re perpetually sore, it’s time to change something in your training plan.
5. You’re constantly sleepy or can’t sleep at all.
Sometimes the body reacts to physical stress by pumping out the hormone cortisol, keeping you on edge when you should be sleeping; other times it tries to force the rest it needs. If you’re experiencing any disturbance in your normal sleep pattern, something’s wrong.
6. You get sick frequently and take a long time to recover.
Exercise boosts our immunity to a certain point, but rest and sleep are also necessary to fending off sickness. If it seems like you’re getting sick more often than those around you or your colds hold on for weeks at a time, this is a good indication you’re working out too hard.
7. You’re feeling less motivated, sad, or irritable.
The way our bodies feel affects our emotional outlook. If you’re suddenly struggling to feel passionate about the things you love, the joy is draining out of your life, or you find yourself snapping at others for no reason, over-training could be the culprit.
8. Your resting heartrate is elevated.
If your normal resting heartrate is in the low 60s and suddenly jumps into the 70s, it’s a sign your body is struggling to recover from the demands you’re placing on it. It’s time to back off before you experience more serious cardiovascular problems.
9. Your appetite has significantly decreased.
Exercise naturally decreases the appetite, but if your interest in food has plummeted, cortisol could be the cause. When we’re under stress, our bodies slow metabolic activity to meet the demands of a perceived “fight or flight” situation. This could be a sign you’re in the middle or late stages of overtraining.
10. You’re losing weight but gaining fat.
The scale might be agreeing with you, but not the mirror. Another side effect of high cortisol is holding on to fat and decreasing the hormones that promote lean muscle mass. Less muscle, in turn, further slows the metabolism.
Any of these ten signs should make you take a second look at your training plan and take some extra time for rest and recovery. Don’t worry, you won’t lose ground. Instead, you’ll come back to the fitness center more motivated, energized, and able to improve.