Especially at the beginning of your fitness journey, it’s easy to get carried away. After all, the internet is rife with articles about the benefits of working out and ‘pushing yourself.’ Add to this influencers who promote extreme workouts with little context, and you have yourself a recipe for disaster.
Why? Because just like anything else - overdoing your workouts can have several effects on both your physical and mental health. And it’s especially easy to get carried away when the popular discourse around fitness is centered around ‘never giving up’ and going beyond your limits.
That’s why, we’re here to give you the other side of the story - i.e. the dangers of overtraining and how to avoid it.
How do I know if I’m overtraining?
There are some signs which tell you that you’re pushing your body beyond its limits. Here’s what to look out for:
- A general lack of energy and prolonged tiredness
- Poor appetite and weight loss
- Frequent colds due to lower immunity
- Difficulty sleeping
- Unusual / increased muscle soreness post workouts
- Increase in blood pressure
- Increased feelings of anxiety and depression
- Higher at-rest heart rate or irregular rhythm
How can I stop myself from overtraining?
While the effects of overtraining can sometimes be severe, the good news is that prevention isn’t difficult. Simply keeping a few basic tips in mind will ensure you don’t go overboard as you get the most out of your fitness regimen.
- Ideally, work with a dietician and a qualified fitness professional to chalk out a nutrition and exercise plan that’s tailored to your needs and physical ability.
- Rest for >30 seconds between sets (depending on the workout) and make sure you schedule rest days between workouts to allow your muscles to recover.
- Don’t skip your cool down. Focus on moves that will stretch and relax the parts of your body that you focused on during your workout. Give yourself time to regulate your breathing and relax.
- Maintain a training log - think of it as a fitness journal of sorts. Track how you’re feeling after every workout. What felt difficult? Was there one day when you felt particularly exhausted? Review this log at regular intervals for an understanding of what to cut back on, if required.
- Include low-impact workout or yoga alongside meditation in your workout regimen. It will give your body and mind time to heal while getting in some movement.
- Sleep is essential in helping your body recover from a workout. Ensure you’re getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night. In case of difficulties sleeping, consult your doctor who may then refer you to a sleep specialist.
- Monitor your heart rate while at rest and while doing specific exercise. If your heart rate increases while at rest or increases significantly while at a particular exercise intensity, you may be at risk of overtraining. Fitness bands come in handy when you want to monitor heart rate,
- Don’t ignore non-workout related stress (it can negatively impact physical performance). If there’s something on your mind regarding family or work, speak to a qualified professional and take the steps you need to navigate the situation.
- Lastly, listen to your body and to your instincts. If something feels wrong, don’t push through. Take time off in case of tiredness, pain, or even if you’re feeling low or irritable.
With all the information available on the benefits of exercise, it can be easy to forget too much of a good thing has its downsides. Ignoring signs of physical and mental stress when working out can have serious consequences - so, when you’re planning your workout regimen, make sure to pencil in enough time for rest and relaxation. As they say, balance is key!