While most people have trouble getting motivated to work out at all, there are some people—myself included—who have trouble taking even a single rest day.
And though it’s good to keep moving and working out on a near daily basis, it’s possible to overdo it sometimes.
Most people understand that rest is important—rest helps rebuild your muscles and allows them to grow back bigger and stronger—but there are times when we may 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).
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 plateaus.
So how do you know if you’re exercising too much?
Here are 10 warning signs you might be overtraining:
1. You’re Experiencing 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 exercising too much.
After heavy or intense training, your body needs time to recover—and constant, relentless soreness means it’s not getting that chance. Take it easy, and let your body recover.
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, or just feel pretty crappy and fatigued overall, you can be pretty sure your body needs a break.
3. Your Energy is Really Low.
If you’re feeling extra fatigued and have had low energy for days on end but you know you’re not sick, you’re probably exercising too much.
Rest up, or prepare to sacrifice performance.
4. You’re Losing Weight Without Meaning To.
While most of the population would love to lose some extra weight by accident, if you have unintentional weight loss and a decreased appetite and you’re not actually trying to lose weight, it may be due to overtraining.
Remember to always make sure you’re getting proper nutrition and try your best to take a break at times.
5. You’re Feeling Extra Irritable.
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. You’re Experiencing 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. Your Resting Heart Rate is Higher Than Usual.
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 regularly: 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.
There are lots of apps that will track resting heart rate these days, or if you’re a fitness nerd like me you might be interested in checking out the Whoop wearable band to measure recovery, including resting heart rate.
8. Your Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is Low.
While you want your resting heart rate to be fairly low, you actually want your heart rate variability (HRV) to be higher. Having a high HRV is a sign that your body is recovering well from stress (including your workouts). A low HRV is usually a sign that your body isn’t recovering well. Exercising too much can prevent you from proper recovery, and a low HRV will show it.
Again, there are a number of apps that measure HRV these days fairly accurately, or the Whoop does this as well.
9. You’re Less Motivated Than Usual.
If you’re an avid exerciser like me, but you’re feeling 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. Alternatively, you may just need some time away from intense training or your specific sport. Try swapping up your regular workouts for nature hikes, new or fun learning-style classes, or a friendly game of tennis/frisbee/pickup basketball/something totally different.
10. You Were Making So Much Progress… Then 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 there’s no one-size-fits all predictor of how much exercise is too much (everyone will be different) there are some steps you can take to prevent overtraining.
Here are the most important ones:
Take a little extra time off every so often. Some people in the fitness world 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 off 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. If it’s hot out or you’re sweating more than normal, you’ll need even more fluids.
Prioritize recovery. While it’s important to work hard while training, it’s equally as important to let your body properly recover.
Take care of sore muscles with muscle recovery methods that actually work. And make sure you’re foam rolling and stretching on a regular basis.
Sleep. While most people (myself included) would prefer to go with as little sleep as possible 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 seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and take a cat nap when you feel the need.
Your body will thank you for it.
24 thoughts on “10 Warning Signs You’re Exercising TOO Much”
I until recently agreed with the view that taking a week of would be madness. That was until I was forced by holiday (could be worse) to take a week off. During the week I felt like I’d put on a stone, which was all psychological. But by the time I got back home my muscles had increased by an inch on my arms and similar results all over my body. I’d suggest it to anybody that’s feeling fatigued. Thank you for this list
That’s great Daley! Glad you had a good experience with it. Although, I still work out even on vacation 🙂
As a cyclist I noticed that warming down helps a lot against muscle stiffness and pain. It works by just pedalling lightly for the last kilometer or so. The amount of time spent for warming down is nothing compared to the long term pain or inconvenience that could happen afterwards.
Agreed! The same is certainly true with running. Just jog a lap, then walk a lap at the end (it also helps to be less gross if you have to go anywhere afterwards haha).
A friend said that you did not get any more benefits from 2 hrs of exercise that after one hour you are not doing your body any favors. What is the truth?
Frankly, I feel this emphasis on exercise is blown way out of proportion. Ninety percent, if not more of my weight control is through diet. Exercise never fails to bring my weight up, no it’s not muscle density either. It probably has to do with increased cortisol due to the stress of working out. Exercise also makes my sugar cravings go through the roof. People say they work out to relieve stress? Well I don’t know about you but pounding the pavement or treadmill for 45 min or lifting weights IS stressful to the body, it certainly is not relaxing. Everyone is different, but my body just does not need it, in fact it just aggravates my body more and actually makes me crave more food. I am able to maintain healthy blood pressure ,cholesterol and weight without beating myself up at the gym. Stop eating so much, adopt a vegan or vegetarian diet and you will not need the gym.
Hi RM, the optimal “diet” is a raw vegan/fruitarian for digestion/absorption/utilisation/elimination/recovery but not everyone will adopt that lifestyle. Exercise is important for bone density and strength, and overall well being. The trick is to find something that resonates with you. So running and lifting weights does not float your boat. What about other sports or calisthenics or less impacting ones like swimming or yoga.
You need to move your body to get the lymphatic system (the body’s sewerage system) moving otherwise that stagnant waste is cause chronic or degenerative conditions
I am 65. An ex soldier and policeman. I have been fit all my life. After leaving these active roles I became lazy so I started taekwondo training and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was tough and I managed to keep up with people half my age. Suddenly my energy levels went flat. My enthusiasm wained. My joints were aching. Most of the above symptoms came into play. I’ve taken a week off and had myself checked out at the hospital. I’m now going to have to pace myself better. I’ve got to realise that I’m not a youngster anymore…sadly!
Hi Denis! Sorry to hear that. We hope everything is okay though and that you find a form of exercise you like and can do!
Overworked on the treadmill, now I’m suffering with severely aching feet.
Don’t do as I did, always have a 5 minute warm up before you speed up a bit, then 5 minutes to cool down.
I’ve had to take 2 weeks off work because of it.
Sorry to hear that Paul! But let’s look at the positive side – we learn from our mistakes. 🙂 Hope you recover quickly!
I think I’m addicted to the point where I may be “in trouble”… the only day I take off is Sundays… I’m a Zumba Instructor… I was quite sure I’m addicted… till I became a Strong by Zumba (HIITZ) Instructor. Can’t get myself to take a few days off… like other people can be like “I don’t want to exercise… I don’t feel like going” I’m like ” I know I need a break, but I just can’t do it. I just HAVE to exercise…” I do most of my classes with wrist and ankle weights. 3.5kg per wrist and 2kg per ankle”
I give 2-3 90min classes 6 days a week and since I’ve done My Strong by Zumba Training, I do that @ home… 6 days a week as well because I’ve got to memorise the whole class before I can teach… clocking in anything between 35000 – 38 000 steps per day…
I don’t take vacation… last 3 years my family went on holiday while I kept going… if we go away for a weekend… I still do a 2 hour session on my own on Saturday….
Today I’m forcing myself to rest because I just have aches and pains all over… weird aches and pains… I’m planning on Taking a nap now but my mind keeps me awake, feeling guilty for canceling my classes for the first time in 3 years today. I don’t even cancel when I have the flue…
Now… my question (after this long “confession”) can you get addicted to exercise?? Like to the point where you are doing yourself more harm than good? Whenever family and friends told me I look tired I and they think I’m over doing it… I would use the excuse that ironman athletes train way harder and longer than me and they’re not overdoing it…
This last few weeks I just don’t feel my healthy energetic self… how do I rest or take a few days off without losing my mind?? Because I really don’t know how!!
Hey Teresa, it sounds that you probably do train too much. We understand that it may be hard to take a break but it’s important to realize that you end up doing more harm than good if you never rest. You may need to take a few days off now to recover, but if you keep going, you may end up needing weeks of break.
We have different lifestyles and bodies, so you can’t really compare yourself to others–and many of those people who do Ironmans and other similar things are elite athletes, and training and competing is their job.
Have you thought about it, why is taking a rest so hard for you? Why do you feel guilty?
Hi! Thanks for this post, now i am very much clear that why i was not able to improve my performance in my workouts. Being in an active lifestyle, sometimes i was not able to refuel my body with proper nutrition, which i know is a must to do thing. Meanwhile my health was also degrading at constant pace with no signs of any infection symptoms and yes it includes the weight loss too. Now i got a reason for my bad performance and getting no gains. Again, thanks for this post.
I have a question, would it be equally beneficial to train for 4 days a week over the 6 days a week?
I usually follow a minimalistic routine of bodyweight pullups, dips and squats 3x a week. As minimalistic as it is, it often leaves me exhausted because I do more pullups and dips in a week than most people do in a month.
Once in a while, I skip a day. And every two months or so, I skip a whole week.
Every time I do so, I come back stronger and with more energy than before.
When I’m on vacations, I make sure that these are “vacations”. No regrets, no guilt.
You can train for progress or you cab train often but you cannot do both
1200 calories balanced normal diet and I do simple home exercise 1 hour morning and 0.5 hour evening is it ok? Or it’s heavy.
I find it difficult to back off sometimes. A week recovery when you have been training hard for a prolonged period of time is definitely worth it.
Sometimes we are far more taxed then we realise. It’s only when you back off for a while you understand how shattered you were and how sub optimal your workouts were.
Take a week off and come back fresh and strong and you will surprise yourself how much more intensity and volume you can handle.
Just my two pennies!
This is very true I weight lift and do pretty intense workouts. Two days on and one day of rest. I now wake up feeling dehydrated and still so fatigued and malaise it gets worse and worse if I keep working out. I will still be sore from 2 days ago. I think it’s best to break up muscle groups instead of doing all upper then all lower the next day. I’ll have to experiment with it.
This is very true I weight lift and do pretty intense workouts. Two days on and one day of rest. I now wake up feeling dehydrated and still so fatigued and malaise it gets worse and worse if I keep working out. I will still be sore from 2 days ago. I think it’s best to break up muscle groups instead of doing all upper then all lower the next day. I’ll have to experiment with it until I don’t feel sick afterwards.