Telltale Signs You're Going Too Hard in Your Workout (and Hurting Your Body)

POPSUGAR Photography | Kathryna Hancock
POPSUGAR Photography | Kathryna Hancock

While we definitely want to encourage you to push your limits, find your edge, and challenge yourself, there's also the other end of that fitness spectrum — and that's going way, way too hard.

If you feel like you're going to die every single time you exercise, it might be time to reevaluate what's going on. Working out too much and too hard can impact your life well beyond the studio or gym in ways you might've never guessed. Personal trainer and injury-prevention expert Liz Letchford MS, ATC, and PhD candidate, identified some common signals that can lead to long-term damage from overexercising.

Heed this warning, check yourself when you're going full beast mode, and definitely give your body time to rest, restore, recover, and improve.

  • Pain. If "you feel intense pain anywhere," Liz said "this may be a sign of an existing or impending injury." Feeling more than sore? Stop what you're doing. Rest. Seek medical attention. Talk to a trainer. Whatever you do, don't keep exercising.
  • Feeling faint or dizzy. This could be a sign of dehydration or exhausting your body beyond what is healthy. Check yourself.
  • Feeling like you're gonna puke. This one is tough — sometimes it's safe to get to the point where you feel like you might hurl, but sometimes it means you've gone too far. Liz's note: pushing yourself to "your edge" (and then scaling back) is "totally OK if your heart is healthy and you have no medical conditions like arrhythmias, seizures, sickle cell trait," in which you have to monitor your heart rate.
  • Weird smells. "You start to smell ammonia — this is a strange phenomenon that results from your body using protein as energy." Apparently if you work out too hard, your body starts eating its own muscles! "Usually this protein is coming from your muscle tissue," Liz said. "The last thing you want while you're trying to build muscle is for your body to be breaking it down."
  • You're feeling crappy outside the gym. If "you have trouble sleeping, are irritable, you aren't able to lift more or heavier weights, or your heart rate is elevated even while resting," this is a sign you're doing too much. "You are probably falling victim to overtraining syndrome," said Liz. "I see this a lot with new clients who come to me wondering why they are working out twice a day and not making any gains. I have them reduce their workouts and focus on rest and recovery and almost immediately they start to regain that clarity and energy."
  • Nausea, vomiting, fever, and changes in urine. These are signs that you've really overdone it — "your body kicks into rhabdomyolysis," which is a beast of a medical issue.