• 27 Feb - 05 Mar, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly

Wou probably knew it's possible to get too little exercise. But did you know it's possible to get too much? Yep. Daily movement and exercise are a good thing, but it's possible to overdo it and actually get in the way of your fitness goals, doing more harm than good to your body.

But how much exercise is too much? There's really no way to offer a qualitative answer to the question ‘how much exercise is too much’. There are too many factors in the equation (again: nutrition, stress, intensity, age, etc.). But while there's no one-size-fits-all rule for when overtraining syndrome strikes, there are common symptoms associated with the condition that you can keep an eye out for.

You've hit a plateau

The fact is, hitting the gym too much can stall progress toward your fitness goals. Whether you're aiming to lose weight, get stronger, more powerful, or faster, overtraining syndrome is going to get in the way. That's because your body isn't adequately recovering between sessions.

You're getting less fit

At a certain point, overtraining won't just keep you at a standstill, it'll actually move you further and further away from your goals. If your muscles are constantly breaking down and never getting the opportunity to repair, you're going to get weaker. Remember: Your muscles get bigger and stronger when you leave the gym, not when you're there.

You're gaining weight

When you have overtraining syndrome, your body is in a state of chronic stress. This messes with your stress hormone (cortisol), which interferes with your metabolism and can lead to weight gain.

Your muscles are super sore

No doubt, muscle soreness a day or two after a hard workout is normal. But three, four, five, or six days after? Nope. Prolonged muscle soreness is a sign your body isn't properly recovering or repairing the damage. So next time you're hobbling up the stairs, think about the timing of your last leg day.

You're very moody

Overtraining syndrome can seriously affect your mental health. It can sap your motivation, make you short-tempered, hostile, cranky, sad, anxious, depressed, and a whole host of other not-so-fun mood changes. Of course, there are many causes of personality, emotional, and mental changes, so if you're feeling off, talk to a mental healthcare provider before jumping to conclusions.

Your sleep quality sucks

You'd think that the more you exercise, the easier it would be to fall asleep. Usually, that's true! But exercise too much and your sleep quality goes down the drain. That's because your parasympathetic nervous system stops operating properly and your cortisol levels, which are typically lowest right before you go to sleep, are still sky-high.

You've got a nagging injury

Frequently getting injured (think: pulling a muscle, aggravating an old injury, or tweaking a muscle)? When you have overtraining syndrome, you're exercising with broken down, weakened muscles, which makes you more susceptible to injury. Further, because you're exercising so often, if you're exercising with imperfect form, you increase your risk for over-use and compensatory injuries.

Your heart rate is out of whack

If you'd be more likely to use the verbs "hammering" or "pounding" to refer to your resting heart rate than, say, "beating," chances are you've been overtraining. That's because, if your body is working overtime to meet the needs of your training, your resting heart rate can change. Usually, the difference is substantial enough that you don't need a heart rate monitor to notice, but the benefit of high-tech heart-rate tracking gadgets (like the Apple Watch) is that they also measure your heart rate variability (how much time passes between each heartbeat), which can dip as a result of overtraining. For example, if you're in a pretty restful state (watching Netflix, laying in bed, etc.) and you feel your heart racing, that might be an indicator that you're over-exercising.