Hard work pays off — but working harder instead of smarter doesn't. If you've been putting in hours of exercise and not seeing the results you want, you could be overtraining.
When you start seeing results — or want to keep results going — it's natural to want to turn it up a notch. It's a delicate balance, though. Look out for these telltale signs that you're overtraining. Knowing when to back off can prevent injury and long-term damage to your health and well-being. We spoke with Youfit Health Club's national director of fitness, Raphael Konforti, to help identify those cues we may be missing.
You're Training Hard but Not Seeing Results
The most frustrating part of overtraining is that your results fade away like the colors in your favorite shirt. You need to give your body time to rest from any intense regimen.
"Recovery is where the magic happens," Konforti said. "Think of training and recovery as your bank account. Every time you exercise, you're taking money out, and if you don't save up with recovery time, you're going to run out of money and results." Changes in your body have a huge impact from what happens after your workouts — your sleep, your rest, and your nutrition all play a part in helping you reach your goals.
You're Low on Energy
Are you dragging yourself out of bed every morning? We're not talking about suffering from a long night out or being a self-proclaimed night owl here. "If you start to notice yourself really struggling to wake up and not having energy throughout the day, you're likely overtraining," Konforti told us. "Drinking an extra cup of coffee — or three? That's another telltale sign." He also explained that this isn't something you experience one day and then not the next. If you feel this way for a week or more, look at scaling back your workouts to replenish your energy.
Aches and Pains
It hurts. Everything! If you hear yourself saying that, stop and check in to see if there's a reason you should feel all those aches and pains. "It's normal to feel sore, but joint aches like the ankles, knees, and shoulders aren't normal. Muscles recover faster than connective tissue — like tendons and ligaments — so overtraining can cause those vital connective tissues to wear out," Konforti said. Chronic pain feeling a bit sore from a workout is also a cause for concern, as it may indicate a strain — or something worse. Additionally, if you feel your immune system breaking down, it's another sign that you're putting too much strain on your body.
Irregular Heart Rate
The truth lies within your heart — literally. One of the best ways to truly know if you've overtrained is by checking your resting heart rate. If you're overtraining, you'll notice that it's increased. According to Konforti, it's best to measure your resting heart rate right when you wake up and to count your beats for one minute. Do this for a couple days to get a baseline measurement. Then, if you feel like you're overtraining, take your heart rate the following morning. If it's a noticeable few beats higher per minute, you'll want to kick back, put on your slippers, and relax so your body can catch up.
What If I'm Overtraining?
If you feel like you may be going too hard, taking immediate action is important. Konforti recommends not stopping exercise altogether but modifying. "Try decreasing the amount of sets you do and taking down the intensity of your workouts," he said. "Focus on light cardio and recovery work like foam rolling and yoga to give your body time to rebuild and get back to normal." How long you need to back off all depends on how hard you pushed yourself before. Usually one to two weeks is enough to get you back on track.