If your coworker came up to you this morning confessing that she has a problem with exercising too much, what would your reaction be? Offers of sympathy and a bouquet of flowers? Not likely. If you’re like most people, you’d shake your head, wondering if she also likes to talk about her problem with eating “too many” vegetables and giving “too much” of her time to helping others. In other words, this sounds like a thinly-veiled statement of boasting. However, what if we were to tell you that exercising too much can be a viable and serious problem that many people face?
You know the euphoric feeling that you get after finishing a great workout? And you know how that high gets perpetuated by positive comments from others on how great you look? Thanks to those factors and others, some athletes will actually work their bodies too hard, and too often, until their muscles cannot adequately repair themselves. In other words, the intensity and amount of exercise exceed the body’s ability to recover. The result? Feeling tired, getting sick more easily, and actually moving backwards in strength and endurance. People having trouble with overtraining may also experience irritability, depression, loss of passion for exercise, an elevated resting heart rate, and greater susceptibility to injuries. This can occur with someone who exercises at a high intensity and volume every day, sometimes twice per day, and does not allow their body time for rest and recovery.
The good news is that very few of us will actually train hard enough to fit into the category of overtraining. However, it’s very possible to overtax yourself, and you need to take care to treat your body right while on an exercise regimen. Here are a few tips to avoid overtaxing:
Rest easy. While it’s normal to feel sore after a workout, it’s not normal to be in a constant state of soreness, for weeks on end. Be sure to give each muscle group at least 2 days of rest in between workouts. Not only does this help your muscle to heal properly, but this time is also when your muscles are getting stronger and more defined.
Fuel you once, fuel you twice. Feeding your muscles properly after a workout is crucial for healthy recovery and growth. Aiming for severe calorie reduction while simultaneously working out intensely is detrimental to your body. If your taxed muscles don’t get the refueling food they need, you’re likely to see major stalls and regression in your weight loss and workout goals. Your muscles need a post-exercise combination of carbohydrates and protein for optimal development.
Change it up. If you’re determined to exercise daily, ask your trainer to help you explore various workout styles. He or she can suggest different types of workouts for each day to avoid overtaxing the same muscle group.
Take a snooze. Sleep allows your body to heal and recover even faster, so be sure to allow yourself the ability to sleep a full 7-9 hours. You might even find that you’re sleeping longer and more soundly when you’re exercising regularly.
While most of us won’t ever reach the point of overtraining, it is more likely that you may be inadvertently overtaxing your body. Make sure your trainer is in the know about all the exercise you’re doing, and when he or she says it’s time for a break, by all means, take it. Taking these steps to prevent overtaxing or overtraining can help ensure a long, healthy career of exercise, and a much better quality of life.