Believe it or not, exercise can be unhealthy if overdone. It’s known as overtraining. When we exercise, we push our body, and this is normal. The exertion stimulates our muscles and cardiovascular system, which makes us fitter. But when we increase the frequency of our training, or up the intensity level, our bodies struggle to recover which can bring progress to a standstill, or even send it backwards.
Everyone is different so there’s no exact formula for how much exercise is the right amount. How quickly your body recovers is affected by experience, intensity, how often you train, nutrition, sleep and other lifestyle factors. But there are a few tell-tale signs it might be time to pull it back a little.
Muscle soreness is normal after a big training session or starting a new exercise program. But if you’re constantly feeling sore and it lasts for days, this could be a sign of overtraining. Your body cannot repair the muscle tissue as quickly as you are damaging it which can make you more prone to injury.
Training releases the stress hormone, cortisol, which strains the nervous system. With too much training and little recovery, levels of cortisol become too high and overload the nervous system, which can lead to a higher resting heart rate, irritability and in extreme cases, anxiety or depression.
Another effect of overtraining is the inability to get a good night’s rest. Cortisol in extremely high levels can disrupt sleep, so you may find yourself tiring easily and never quite feeling well-rested.
Coming down with a cold that takes a long time to recover could be your body’s way of telling you that your immune system is suffering. It’s often easy to ignore the sniffles, but it’s important to listen to your body and give it the rest it needs.
Your body changes while resting, not training. After exercise, muscles need a chance to repair and that’s only possible when your body is given a good amount of time to rest and recover. When it comes to reaching your fitness goals, overtraining can often send you in the opposite direction.
An ideal training program should allow you to make progress, but still be able to recover. If you’re feeling over-trained, take it down a notch by introducing an additional rest day, or longer rest periods between exercises. If you’re new to exercise, avoid pushing too hard too soon. Ease in and gradually increase the amount and intensity of training to give your body time to adapt. If you’re experienced and want to push yourself, make changes gradually, paying attention to how your body responds. The harder you train, the more effort you also need to put into recovery techniques to stay healthy and safe. It’s always a good idea to consult with a professional who has the knowledge and experience to help guide you to train in a way that is appropriate for your progress and success.