Is it Possible to Workout Too Much?

By Terri Ross

You’ve got new big goals and you have put everything you’ve got into it. Perhaps you are doing your first endurance race or you really want to conquer something new. Nothing can stop you from going to the gym! Or can it?

In the fitness world, it’s called Overtraining. Yes, it’s a thing. Your body works hard. And it’s important to take everything outside of the gym into consideration too. The day job is requiring extra hours, the kids need help with their homework, the finances can cause stress, and relationships can cause stress. I know, the gym can be the only “safe place”. As important as it is to work out, it is equally important to listen to your body and allow it to rest, repair and replenish energy stores.

Here are some common signs that can signal a time for a rest day.

  1. Decreased performance.

Likely the most obvious sign will be that you are increasing your intensity or the volume of your workout, but you notice you aren’t running as fast or aren’t as agile or are getting tired sooner.

2. Increased perceived effort during workouts.

Overtraining can also make seemingly effortless workouts feel unusually difficult. (One time in the pool, I swore I was swimming through mud.) You might notice a higher resting heart rate or that it takes longer for your heart rate to return to normal after exercising.

3. Fatigue.

Fatigue happens sometimes, especially when you are working hard. Be sure to fuel your body appropriately, and get at least 8 hours of sleep.

4. Agitation and moodiness.

The stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine are produced during exercise; constantly overtraining with no rest does not allow your body time to even out. This can cause mood swings, irritability and make it hard to concentrate.

5. Insomnia or restless sleep.

Sleep ideally provides the body time to rest and repair itself. But overproduction of stress hormones, as mentioned above, may not allow you to wind down or completely relax, making sleep much less effective (which compounds chronic fatigue and moodiness).

6. Loss of appetite.

The hormone imbalance comes into play again. Hormones affect our hunger and satiety cues. Normally more activity would require more fuel, but the exhaustion can lead to appetite suppression instead.

7. Injury

It’s no surprise that overused muscles and joints are susceptible to injury. If you are in pain that lasts more than two weeks or so, be sure to get it checked out.

When you don’t allow your body’s systems to recuperate, it can be harder to fight off infection.

8. Psychological stress and/or depression.

It’s okay to not CRUSH the workout every single day. Give yourself grace when you notice you need a rest day or two.

If you recognize these signs of overtraining in yourself, seek the help of a physician or other health professional to seek help.

A certified trainer can help you put together a periodized program that will include rest and progressions as needed. Take care of yourself and remember that overtraining may actually set you back longer with an injury. A few days of rest, foam rolling and yoga will pay off incredibly.