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Are you working out too much? Understanding overtraining

By: Jessica Abercrombie

When starting off on a weight loss journey, loving exercise may take time (and may not come naturally!). Have you ever noticed that sudden spark when you try out a new activity, and instantly make it part of your routine? The rush of endorphins you experience while moving your body can be addictive, making it so that you are itching to get back to the gym, class, or park.

OR maybe you don’t feel this intrinsic motivation to exercise, but you are determined to make up for a weekend off or indulgent vacation. You push yourself extra hard at the gym, telling yourself, “if I can work really hard for a few days, I’ll get right back to where I was before!”

Exercise is good for you, right? Then why is it that sometimes despite working extra hard to up your fitness regimen, the results are not what you would like to see?

You may actually be OVERTRAINING! Our bodies need balance; running yourself into the ground to “make-up for” a less than desirable choice is bound to take its toll. Just as we need moments of relaxation to recover from mental stress, our bodies need time to rest and heal after strenuous physical activities. Not allowing ourselves an appropriate recovery time can actually confuse our hormones (particularly testosterone and cortisol), and lead to more fat deposits and muscle breakdown!

Just like with overeating one specific food, our body becomes fatigued from a lack of variety and rest, and will slow its progress to counteract the effects of doing too much. If you see the scale creeping up despite your multiple workouts a day (which by the way are not necessary unless you are an athlete who is training for a major event!), or your exponentially hard-core training program, this might mean you are overtraining. You may want to reassess your fitness routine if you notice you are experiencing:

  • Excessive fatigue
  • Problems sleeping
  • Brain fog
  • Losing interest in training (despite pushing yourself)
  • Inability to reach past strength and endurance PRs (personal records)
  • Increased inflammation
  • Higher RHR (resting heart rate)

If you notice these overtraining symptoms, look at how you can fit appropriate periods of recovery into your schedule. The best way to assess how much recovery is necessary for you is to be mindful of what your body is telling you. Taking your time, letting inflammation/injuries relieve themselves, experiencing a return to normal energy levels and RHR, and finding an enthusiasm or desire for exercise because it feels good vs because you feel you “have to” will be beneficial in helping you begin to see desired results again!

Remember, rest and recovery do not mean solely sitting on the couch or being sedentary until you feel better. Getting adequate sleep, going for walks, and caring for your body through both dynamic and static stretching, are all important parts of recovery. So be mindful of your needs, go with your gut, and give yourself the time you need so that you can keep moving and building a healthy relationship with exercise!