For many of us, an hour-long sweat session is as good as therapy—it relieves stress, gives us time to check-in mentally, and makes us feel really good (thanks, endorphins!). But too much of anything is never a good thing — even exercise! It is possible to go overboard with your training, which can not only increase your risk of injury but also stall your results (because you’re not giving the body adequate time to recover, which is when the muscle-building happens!)
But how do you know if you’re working out too much? If you’re exercising more than six hours a week and working out gets in the way of your social life, work, and the quality of your relationships, you might want to take a step back from the treadmill. Even if your sweat schedule doesn’t impede your social life, there are other signs that your body could use a break. If any of these apply to you, it’s worth checking in with your doctor and possibly scaling back on exercise for a while.
1. Anxiety or guilt
An organised workout schedule is great for accountability—signing up for classes in advance ensures that you’re less likely to skip them when it’s go time. But if you feel anxious and panicky when you realize that you might miss your class or you won’t be able to fit in your five-mile run after work, take a breath. It takes a lot more than one skipped workout to lose fitness! You shouldn’t feel guilty, anxious, or depressed if you can’t fit a workout in.
2. Can’t lose weight or make progress
Despite the countless hours spent in the gym, you feel like your body has plateaued. You’re not gaining or losing weight, and certainly aren’t building muscle. When overtraining occurs, the body doesn’t have a chance to reduce inflammation and recover between workout sessions. But a recovery period is necessary in order to see gains in muscle growth and to really reap the benefits of the hard work you put in at the gym.
Another symptom of overtraining? Chronic injuries. The truth is that you can only push your body so far—most injuries stem from overuse and stress, so they’re pretty much inevitable if you’re working out too much. Taking a break will give your body time to heal, and space for a little self-care. Massages and meditation, anyone?
4. Hormonal imbalances
Our bodies are pretty good at giving us signals when something’s not working. And overtraining is no different. Stress and fatigue build up and cause the body to produce more cortisol hormone than it normally does. Too much cortisol can result in weight gain, adrenal fatigue, and a serious hormonal imbalance within your body.
Women might even notice that their menstrual cycles are abnormal or totally disappear. If this happens to you, head to your doctor. Losing your cycle can have serious implications on future fertility, bone density, and overall health.
5. What can you do about it?
If exercising leaves you tired, defeated, and depressed, it’s time to find an activity that makes you feel really good. Maybe that means ditching your super-challenging boot camp class for a gentle yoga flow—or even taking a break from working out altogether.
Talking about it with a professional can also help realign your focus and work through underlying issues about anxiety. At the end of the day, wellness doesn’t just encompass your physical health. It includes mental health, too.