Exercising too much may seem like it can’t be a problem, but in fact it often is. Whether you’re a beginner, someone who has just started up, or an advanced exerciser, it’s very possible to overtrain in your enthusiasm. Overtraining can lead to slower gains, increased risk of injury, insomnia, and generally being a cranky and irritable person.
Overtraining can both occur with cardio/aerobics, as well weight training. Some of the most consistent overtraining I’ve seen among my friends has been with serious runners and gym rats who want to hang out and lift in the gym all the time, but it also can and does occur in more casual exercisers as well. I’ll admit I ended up overtraining as I was preparing for a 140 mile bike ride this summer. I didn’t notice any systems until after the ride.
So what are symptoms of overtraining and how can we avoid it? First, consider your mental state. Are you not sleeping well and depressed, perhaps irritable and constantly anxious? Having trouble concentrating? These are symptoms of overtraining. So is being constantly sore and having a rest heart rate that is way above your normal. Of course these could be symptoms of other conditions as well, so if they persist after reducing exercise consider seeing your doctor.
I suggest everyone take off at least a day a week, and my body greatly prefers two days off as I’ve learned my body recovers slowly. It’s also important to have both hard days and easy days of exercise interspersed. And increase your exercise slowly. You can’t instantly go from occasionally walking ½ mile a few times a week to walking 30 miles a week, nor from running 5 miles a week to 50. A good rule of thumb is to only increase ten to fifteen percent a week. Remember, you can’t make up for past inactivity quickly, whether it’s a month off or two decades of no exercise.