Is it possible to do too much exercise? Yes, and, particularly at the start of a fitness journey, it can be due to over enthusiasm to get on and do what you’ve set out to do.
The problem is that overtraining can deplete the body leading to injuries, and illnesses which may mean that you need to stop training altogether, sometimes for significant periods of time.
Here are some of the signs of overtraining:
- Elevated morning pulse
- Sudden inability to complete workouts
- Feeling unmotivated and lacking energy
- Increased susceptibility to colds, sore throats, and other illnesses
- Loss of appetite
- Decreased performance
If you’re feeling any of these on a regular basis then it’s a good time to review your workout and, if you’re worried about anything, always consult your Doctor.
Finding the time to exercise, and doing it regularly is great, but our bodies also need to rest, recover, and rebuild.
For example, if you’re lifting weights, don’t work the same muscle group two days in a row, allow at least a day in between.
For cardio, you may wonder if it’s okay to do it every day; my view is that depends on the intensity and activity. Overall, it’s not great to do the same workout every day as that can lead to both overtraining as well as repetitive stress injuries. I would also recommend varying the intensity of your workouts, not only to prevent problems, but also to promote a wider spectrum of strength and fitness. So, for example, if you usually bike or run, try walking or swimming on other days.
I am my own favourite anecdote for overtraining, and it’s a sobering story. I was in my early 40’s, had just given up smoking and, at that stage, didn’t have the knowledge I later gained by qualifying as a Personal Trainer. All I wanted was to regain my fitness as quickly as possible and so, remembering how easy running had been for me when I was young, I set off like a whippet. Looking back, I give myself credit for the total commitment and focus which lead me to re-discover my love of fitness and ultimately lead to a new career choice. But I didn’t take my age into account; I didn’t build in enough time for rest, I didn’t vary my workouts, and didn’t strength train to help support my body in what I was asking it to do. This resulted in Achilles tendon injuries which still affect me today.
The moral of the story is to recognise the signs of over training, don’t push through them, and always factor rest days into your schedule. It’s far better to take a week or so off from exercise and return refreshed than to permanently injure yourself. Even a week or two away isn’t enough to completely lose your fitness, and you may even come back with more energy than ever.