Just about all of us want to fit more exercise into our busy lives. With everything else on our schedules, it’s hard to imagine we could possibly do enough, let alone too much. However, experts say you can indeed overdo your workouts. Some danger signs that you’re doing hitting the gym too often and too hard are:
Even the best of us ache a bit after a hard workout, but if you feel sore for days, or find that you’re not recovering as fast as you used to, that might be a sign to slow down for a while.
If you start to notice that you’re getting hurt regularly at the gym, listen to your body’s protests and slow down.
There’s growing evidence that extreme exercise can be bad for your heart, and that endurance athletes (marathoners, etc.) in particular are at risk for developing arrhythmias.
Overtraining can disturb your circadian rhythm and make it harder to get a good night’s sleep (which then makes you more prone to other hazards, since sleep is your immune system’s best friend).
Dramatic Changes in Appetite or Weight
Huge increases or decreases in appetite or weight can indicate that your workout routine is playing havoc with your metabolism. If you’re working out to lose weight, you might be tempted to disregard this warning sign as progress, but you should be cautious of any large changes in either direction.
How can you avoid these dangers and ensure you are benefiting your body with your exercise routine rather than endangering your health? Here are some simple, easy to follow tips to keep your workouts working for you:
- Vary your routine, so you don’t overwork specific muscle groups and risk repetitive motion stress injuries. Don’t use the same four machines and ride your bike all the time; break up the monotony for your mind and your body. If you usually spend your cardio time on the elliptical, trade it for the recumbent bike some days. If you focus hard on your arms one day, let them rest and give your legs center stage the next.
- Days off are just as important as days on. Your body needs time and rest in order to build up muscle and come back stronger, so make sure to build rest days into your schedule, and get plenty of sleep. If you really can’t go at least one whole day without exercise, take an easy hike or low-impact bike ride. Just make sure that it’s really light, so your body has time to recover from the rest of the week.
- Eat wisely, so that your body has all the building blocks it needs to fuel your hard work. Make sure to get plenty of protein, fruits, and vegetables, and don’t forget to drink plenty of water.
- Don’t increase the intensity of your workouts too quickly. We all know that a couch potato shouldn’t run straight out to a marathon, but the temptation to increase your weights or reps might be strong once you start. Make sure to ramp up slowly over time so that you don’t sabotage your progress.
- Be cautious of all-or-nothing workout gurus who encourage you to push beyond your limits. Some recent (and scary) evidence indicates that pushing yourself to work out very hard (as with CrossFit, for example) can cause sudden onset of a kidney condition called Rhabdomyolysis. The condition is caused by catastrophic breakdown of muscle cells which flood the kidneys with protein. Though rare, it’s most common in people who are very fit, so don’t think that because you’re not a newbie it’s not something you need to worry about.
Working out is great for your body and your mind, and most of us should do what we can to fit more exercise into our schedule. Just remember to let yourself off the hook on occasion, and make sure that you’re owning your workout routine, not letting it own you.