3 signs you're overexercising
Are you experiencing fewer gains and more fatigue after your workout routine? These may be signs of overexercising. To improve strength and speed, it's important to keep exercise challenging. But if you're exercising a lot, not seeing many benefits, and feel tired or burned out most of the time, you could have overtraining syndrome.
What to look for
The signs of overexercising may be different for every person, but all of them indicate the body needs more time to recuperate after a workout. Not sure if you're overexercising? Experts agree there are three primary signs of overtraining syndrome. Look for these three areas of concern.
1. Physical decline
Physical symptoms of overtraining are common. It's easy to dismiss aches and pains as part of a regular exercise routine, but it's important to pay attention to any changes in your physical health. Physical symptoms may include:
- A plateau in workout progress
- Excess sweating or overheating
- Heavy, stiff, or sore muscles
- Increase in workout-related injuries such as sprains, tendinitis, or joint pain
- Unplanned weight loss
2. Emotional exhaustion
The emotional symptoms of overexercising can impact your mental health and place a toll on your relationships with others. Negative changes in mental wellness can also make it more difficult to get the rest you need to recover. Symptoms of emotional exhaustion may include:
- Depression or feeling depressed after a workout
- Difficulty sleeping
- Disordered eating
- Feeling unmotivated or less interested in exercise
- Mood changes, including irritability, confusion, and anger
- Poor academic or work performance
- Trouble concentrating
3. Systemic health issues
Overexercising can lead to other systemic health issues, which are conditions that affect the entire body, including:
- Changes in or discoloration of hair, skin, or nails
- Digestive problems, including constipation, diarrhea, and loss of appetite
- Faster heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Menstrual cycle changes, such as stopped periods
- Recurring illnesses, such as colds and respiratory infections
Rest to recover
Without proper recovery time, the body is unable to make exercise gains. Recovering from overtraining or managing symptoms of overexercising requires adequate rest and self-care. Rest is a critical part of a healthy workout routine and refers to time off from exercise, although light walking and everyday activities on rest days are OK.
How much rest do you need? Some individuals may need as many as three days between sessions. Sports medicine providers can help determine the proper recovery time for your needs and design a plan to keep you healthy.
Other tips to recover from overexercising include:
- Eating a proper diet. Lack of appetite is common when overexercising, which can make it difficult to get the nutrients your body needs. Make sure to eat a balanced diet and stay hydrated.
- Getting sufficient sleep. Rest does not necessarily mean sleep. Getting between seven and nine hours of sleep every night allows the body time to recharge and heal.
- Seek treatment for illness or injury. If you're experiencing recurring illnesses or have an injury from overexercising, it's important to receive proper medical treatment. This may include resting until you've healed or modifying a workout with the supervision of a professional.
How to prevent overexercising
Practicing good workout habits can prevent overtraining syndrome in the future. Consider the following tips:
- Eat right. As mentioned, a diet rich in lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables helps to fuel your workouts and promote better overall health.
- Hydrate. Staying hydrated throughout the day helps cushion your bones, lubricate your joints, and deliver oxygen throughout your body.
- Keep a journal. Tracking your workouts and your diet may help identify patterns you need to change or symptoms that occur over time. Share this information with a trainer or medical provider to find the right exercise routine for you.
- Rest between workouts. Be sure to allow at least six hours between workout sessions and schedule at least one rest day every week.
- Start a new program. Working with a trainer or modifying your exercise routine can help you reach goals and improve long-term outcomes.
- Take a break! If you find yourself dreading a workout or feeling stressed, it's time to take a break. The physical and emotional toll of overexercising outweighs the benefits.
- See a professional. If you've tried to stop or reduce time spent exercising and can't do it, or you continue to experience symptoms of overtraining despite taking a prolonged rest period, it's time to seek professional help. A primary care or mental health provider can determine if you have problems with compulsive exercise or a more serious disorder.
The Reid Health Athletic Training Clinic provides comprehensive support for athletes of all types and abilities. Our sports medicine team can also help develop exercise programs with your individualized needs in mind.
Make healthy exercise a priority. Request an appointment with the Reid Health Sports Medicine program.