Once you get yourself into a workout groove and start to see and feel the results, it’s pretty easy to get hooked and want to exercise all the time. But be careful: It’s possible to work your body out too much by not allowing it enough time to recover in between workouts. Rest days are just as important as your active ones!
We spoke with a few experts about overtraining. Here are a few ways to tell if you’re not giving your body enough rest, plus steps to take if you’ve overexerted yourself:
According to certified personal trainer Brandon Mentore, the physical signs that you’re pushing your body too hard are pretty similar to the way you might feel the day after a tough workout. The difference being, you feel this way for many days afterwards. “Tightness in your body, joint stiffness and aches and pains outside of your workout that persist for several days are the top physical indicators that you’re working out too much,” Mentore says.
But it’s not just your body that will feel the burn from overdoing it; your mind will, too. Mentore says lack of sleep, decreased energy and even brain fog are all common signs of overtraining. (It can also negatively affect your libido!)
Everyone thinks that to get results, you’re better off doing more exercise. But the opposite is true. You want to be able to find the minimum effective dose for your body and for your goals.
Why? Because your body makes progress during rest, not during the actual workout. As fitness pro Chris Cooper explains, “Your muscles, tendons, ligaments and, more importantly, your central nervous system all need time to repair and regenerate. When they don’t have the time to do that because you are constantly pushing their limits, you start to see breakdowns in the form of sleep patterns and lack of progress, especially in strength.” Cooper says that you might even find yourself getting sick more often, plus little aches and pains develop out of nowhere. Ouch!
What can you do to prevent this from happening? Physical therapist Mike Silverman says that rest days are absolutely key. “You can prevent working out too much by having scheduled days off included in your routine,” he explains. “This will force your body to rest, which it absolutely needs.” If you’re experiencing specific pains from working out that persist for three days or more, Silverman recommends seeing a doctor to make sure you haven’t sustained an injury that might need medical attention.
If you haven’t jumped on the wearable fitness tracker bandwagon yet, fitness trainer Clint Fuqua says this is a great reason to do so. “The best way to remedy overtraining is to track your sleep each night with a wearable,” he says.