While most people have trouble getting motivated to work out at all, there’s a small part of the population—myself included—that has trouble taking even a single rest day.
And though it’s good to keep moving and working out on a near daily basis, that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to overdo it sometimes.
Because while we all know that rest is important—rest helps rebuild your muscles and allows them to grow back bigger and stronger—there are times when we may just try and push it too hard.
In the fitness world, this phenomenon of exercising too much is called overtraining, and most athletes of all levels have experienced it at some point in their lives (whether they know it or not).
And rather than helping you reach your goals faster, overtraining can actually send you backwards—resulting in symptoms such as unwanted weight gain/loss, lack of motivation to exercise, and fitness plateau.
So how do you know if you’re exercising too much?
Here are 10 warning signs you’re overtraining:
1. Prolonged muscle soreness.
If you have muscular pains or soreness that doesn’t go away after three days or more, you should probably take that as a sign that you’re overdoing it.
After heavy or intense training, your body needs time to recover—and constant, relentless soreness means it’s not getting that chance.
2. You keep getting sick.
Most healthy and fit people tend to have a fairly good immune system, rarely getting more than a mild cold every so often.
So if you’re getting sick more than normal, and just feel pretty crappy and fatigued overall, you can be pretty sure your body needs a break.
And while I normally advocate exercise during a cold (I tend to think sweating helps rid the body of bad stuff like germs), this is one time where you need to give your body a rest.
3. Low energy.
If you feel low energy for days on end but you know you’re not sick, you’re probably in a state of overtraining.
Rest up, or prepare to sacrifice performance.
4. Unintentional weight loss.
While most of the population would love to lose some extra weight by accident, if you have unintentional weight loss and a decreased appetite while not actually trying to lose weight it may be due to over-exercising.
Things to remember: always make sure you’re getting proper nutrition, and try your best to take a break at times.
Feeling extra agitated lately?
If you’re experiencing irritability as well as one or more of these other symptoms, you can make a safe bet that you’re exercising too much.
Save yourself (and the people around you) by taking a few days off here and there.
6. Early onset of fatigue.
Feeling an overall sense of fatigue after prolonged intense training, or getting unusually tired early on in your workouts?
You guessed it: you’re probably overtraining.
7. High blood pressure.
This is a tough one, since unless you’re older, you probably don’t check your blood pressure all that often.
But if you’re blood pressure is up, and you don’t have other risk factors for high blood pressure, it could be due to over-exercising.
8. Higher resting heart rate.
Most really fit people have a resting heart rate sub 50 or 60 bpm or so (the average person’s resting heart rate is 72 bpm).
Check yours: if you’re in great shape, but your heart rate is significantly higher than expected, you may want to give your body a break from exercise.
9. Lack of motivation to exercise.
If you’re an avid exerciser like me, yet you recently feel less and less motivated to work out, it could be your body giving you a signal that you actually need some time off.
Take a few days or even a week off and see if your motivation returns.
10. You hit a plateau.
Have you been working as hard as you possibly can, yet you can’t seem to improve your speed, strength or overall athletic performance?
Congratulations: you’ve officially plateaued.
Instead of pushing harder, you may want to think about giving your body a break, since a constant state of plateau is one of the main indicators of overtraining.
How to prevent overtraining
While it’s impossible to predict how much exercise is too much (it all depends on your own body) there are some steps you can take to prevent overtraining.
Here are the most important ones:
Rest. Some people in the fitness field strongly believe you should take an entire week off of training every few months or so to let your body recuperate.
I’ve never actually done this—I’d go crazy with pent up energy if I tried—but it could be worth trying if you’re experiencing multiple symptoms of overtraining.
Alternatively, take a few days of of intense training and do some active rest day activities instead.
Replenish your body’s fluids. Drink lots and lots of fluids, including fluids with electrolytes and potassium.
Water, coconut water, cherry juice, and electrolyte-enhanced sports drinks are all good choices.
Recover. While it’s important to work hard while training, it’s equally as important to let your body properly recover.
Sleep. While most people (myself included) would prefer to go without sleep in order to accomplish more in a day, sleep is our body’s prime time to recover, and shorting yourself of it puts you at a high risk for overtraining.
So make sure you get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, and take a cat nap when you feel the need.
Your body will thank you for it.