The common saying “no pain, no gain” is often used as motivation when what we need to do gets too tough. Exercise is hard, and we get sore all the time from the endless gym sessions, runs and HIIT workouts. Often, we begin to feel burnt out during our workout regimes. Perhaps you just can’t finish that final set, or you might feel tired during that 5km run. You begin to question if “No Pain, No Gain” is turning into “All Pain, No Gain”.
If you feel like that, then you may be working out too hard.
Too much of a good thing…
… is a really bad thing. Even experts like Olympic-trained athlete Amanda Russell recommends having a minimum of one to two rest days a week. That’s for an Olympic-level athlete, so normal humans like us might need a bit more recovery time. Over-exercising isn’t just a case of fatigue or pain. Instead, working out too hard can cause long term effects like:
- Permanent damage to ligaments and joints
- Amenorrhea – Cessation of your monthly periods
- Excess Cortisol (stress) hormone, which leads to stress eating and a craving for more fatty foods
- Chronic heart problems
Exercise is helpful to you, up to a certain point. Beyond that point, there are diminishing, and even negative returns. You’re not going to get “even slimmer” or look “even better” just because you pile on the exercise.
But how do I know if I’m overdoing it?
Long term effects are scary, and can even lead to death. However, the body is a system that is equipped to preserve itself. It will send you plenty of signals, and you only need to stop and be aware of your body in order to hear what it’s trying to tell you.
The following signs are subtle, and not all-encompassing. But if you see a combination of a few of these signals, then it’s time to reassess your exercise regime and perhaps plan for better nutrition. Here are the signs and what they mean:
- It’s harder to fall asleep – Your nervous system is working on overtime, mostly because of the cortisol levels in your bloodstream.
- You consistently fail to complete workouts – Muscle failure occurs too quickly, at an almost abnormal speed. It’s alright to fail, but if you realise that you’re consistently slower and struggling all the time, you’re probably fatigued.
- You’re consistently grouchy – If you’re always feeling tired and moody, there might be cause for concern. Post-workout, you should be enjoying some level of endorphin rush. If the opposite occurs, then you might be over-exercising.
- You fall sick often – Exercise, when done right, should heighten your immunity. If you’re falling sick often when you’re exercising hard, then the exercise has taken too much of a toll on your immunity.
So how do I avoid this?
You need to recognise that inserting rest days is not holding your weight loss plans back! Think of it this way: The more consistently you rest, the more consistently you can exercise with out falling sick or getting injured. There’s really no point pushing your body over the limit and then going out of commission for one week, before bouncing back hard again only to get injured.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, you should also recognise that limits are like video game high scores: They go up with time. So don’t rush it! Start with more rest days, and get really comfortable with following through on your workouts on a regular basis. Need two rest days in between? Go ahead. You can cut that down eventually, but you have to be comfortable doing that. Push yourself during the workouts, but don’t kill yourself by scheduling five consecutive workout days.
Finally, eat right. When you expend calories, you need to take them back in. Don’t purposely dodge all the oils, or avoid carbs. Choose complex carbs, oils high in monounsaturated fats, and lean proteins. You need the nutrition, so don’t hesitate to eat.