One of the building blocks of exercise is the idea that we must work our bodies to failure. We can only increase our physical capabilities by pushing ourselves to the limit. This fundamental idea has some truth, but such an intense training style isn’t always a good thing. Here are the five biggest risks of overdoing a workout and how you can avoid them.
1. Mental Fatigue
Mental fatigue is often the first negative effect you will notice from overtraining. Don’t confuse this feeling with feeling tired during your workout – that’s normal. You should start to feel concerned when mental fog becomes a constant problem. It’s a sign from your brain that your body can’t maintain its current activity level. Here are some common symptoms of mental exhaustion from overtraining:
- Difficulty falling asleep and waking up
- Trouble performing simple everyday tasks
- Short-term memory loss
- Irritability and short temper
- Lack of motivation
- Anxiety and depression
A stressful workout routine could be the culprit if these symptoms occur regularly. Adjust your training regime to make each workout more enjoyable so your mind can keep up.
2. Physical Burnout
Once the symptoms of mental fatigue emerge, you can expect physical burnout to follow. Your body reaches a tipping point and starts to falter, which leads to a decline in performance and an increased risk of injury. These adverse effects have short- and long-term implications:
- Short term – reduced strength, stress injuries, frequent aches and pains
- Long term – chronic health issues, poor metabolism, increased cardiovascular stress
Overworking an already burned-out body often leads to stress injuries like sports hernias, sprains and hairline fractures. You’re more prone to chronic issues such as arthritis and heart disease in the long run. Help your body recover after each workout with plenty of food and rest to prevent physical burnout. Static stretching also helps.
3. Reduced Appetite
Working out usually contributes to healthy eating habits, but overtraining causes hormonal imbalances that can hurt your appetite. It also makes you overstressed and anxious, compounding the adverse effects on your relationship with food. Your body doesn’t have the energy to follow a planned diet, and your mind is too exhausted to care.
A healthy lifestyle requires a proper balance of diet and exercise. Too much of one element can end up impeding the other. Pace yourself in the gym and your appetite will follow suit.
4. Weight Fluctuation
Overtraining can cause your weight to fluctuate based on metabolism and appetite. You can gain or lose weight in a hurry when your body’s eating habits and digestion process change. It all depends on the individual’s reaction to overtraining.
Some people might be too tired to eat the calories they need, while others could binge eat to cope with the stress of their workouts. Either way, the result is undesired weight fluctuation that could lead to more severe problems down the road, such as eating disorders and body dysmorphia. If you notice sudden weight changes, take the necessary time off from the gym to let your body return to equilibrium.
5. Poor Immunity
Making your body physically and mentally weaker from overtraining can impact your immune system’s functions. Aside from feeling groggy and run-down all the time, you’re more exposed to minor ailments such as colds, fevers and upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs). Your body spends so much effort recovering from strenuous workouts that your immune system’s performance starts to decline.
If you get sudden minor illnesses that previously never occurred, your body is telling you it needs more time to recover. Take a break from the gym to overcome these illnesses and get your body back to 100%. Adjust your workouts accordingly once you feel better.
Listen To Your Body
Listening to your body is the easiest way to determine if your workouts are too strenuous. Are you mentally exhausted and physically burned out? Has your appetite plummeted? Do you lose or gain weight more easily than before? Have you been more prone to illnesses?
If you answered yes, listen to your body and scale back your workout routine. Don’t compromise your health by doing too much in the present moment. Set yourself up for long-term success by managing your workout intensity and letting your body recover.