It's no secret that working out is a key part of staying healthy and minimizing stress, but sometimes too much of a good thing can turn into a problem. It doesn't matter if you are a fitness guru or have a relaxed approach to the gym, everyone needs time to recover after getting physical.
During a workout the muscles are being taxed and the body is experiencing a loss of fluid and energy stores, such as muscle glycogen which maintains blood-glucose levels. Once you towel off and put your feet up, the body immediately starts to replenish these important elements. And it's during the rest period that the body is repairing and even building new muscle.
While it might feel like cheating to take days off, continuously training can weaken your body and undo the work. Watch for burnout if you are exercising five times (or five hours) or more a week. It doesn't matter whether you're training for a marathon or going for the fun of it, over-straining can lead to serious injury, landing you on your butt or even in physical therapy for months. One way or another, the body will make you take time to fix itself.
While everyone has different recovery needs, the signs of over-exercising are clear. If you notice any of these symptoms, don't stress — rest. If you want to find your optimal recovery time, keeping a training log can be helpful, tracking your progress and monitoring your motivation and energy. Taking a break can improve your performance. I promise, the treadmill isn't going anywhere.
1. You're "Just Not That Into It"
If you feel like you've lost your workout wizardry it could be more than just passing fatigue. For those who usually enjoy their exercise routines, experiencing lack of motivation could mean a burnout is on the horizon. You should feel invigorated by a workout, not more malaise than a teenager reading Camus' The Stranger for the first time. These feelings tend to be more common with people who enjoy the rush of a challenging workout, and the feelings of speed and power — such as weight lifters and sprinters.
2. Increased Resting Heart Rate
Resting heart rate can tell a lot about a person's cardiovascular fitness level. According to the Mayo Clinic, the resting heart rate for an average adult can span anywhere from 60 to 100 beats per minute. However, an athlete in peak condition may have a resting heart rate of around 40 beats a minute. This difference is due to resting heart rate as a measure of efficient heart activity.
You may notice runners wearing smart devices that track their heart rate, and keeping tabs is a good way to make sure you're not overdoing it. Personal trainer Dan Trink explained to Men's Fitness, “altered resting heart rate is the result of an increased metabolic rate to meet the imposed demand of the training.” Thus, your heart is working harder to compensate for the strain you are putting on your body. He suggests monitoring your resting heart rate when you wake up before getting out of bed to get a better sense of your condition.
3. Sleep Disturbances
A good workout should make you excited to hit the hay. Your body needs those eight glorious hours to repair and recharge. However, if you find dozing off difficult, that may be a sign it's time to cut back at the gym. One or two nights of unfulfilling rest is no big deal, but if it becomes a frequent occurrence, you may be putting too much stress on your body. This state of overload can lead to subtle changes in the hormonal and nervous system. One study suggests that differences in your secretion of hormones like cortisol (the "stress" hormone) can disturb your sleep patterns. Not getting enough sleep will lead to changes in mood, as well as decreased endurance and performance.
4. Crappy Mood
If everything has been getting on your nerves lately, your workout might be to blame. Exercise can be a wonderful stress-reliever, but when your body is overtaxed physically the levels of your stress hormone cortisol will be elevated. If you're feeling abnormally angry that someone left a elliptical dripping with sweat, depressed about how you look, or anxious about getting through your reps of crunches, then take some time to recover. After a few days taking it easy, you should be excited to return to the burn.
5. Persistent Soreness
There is a difference between struggling to climb the stairs home after a brutal workout and still feeling it three days later. If it seems recovery is taking longer than usual, your muscles are probably begging for a break. They say "no pain no gain," but leaning into the soreness when feeling sluggish isn't giving your muscles adequate time to rejuvenate and grow. If you are not content to lay on the couch, doing a few stretches and some light yoga might help with the soreness and circulation. Moves like cobra (or upwards dog) that stretch out your back or kneeling to stretch out your hip flexors can target those achy areas.
6. Weakened Health
Over-training can lead to a weakened immune system and increased risk of injury. Your body can only accommodate so much stress, and speeding through breaks, doing too much too quickly might push your body passed what it can handle. Studies have shown that health advantages from exercise come faster than you think, and running too hard or too frequently according to studies may undo some of the benefits. If you're getting frequently, your immune system may be telling you to slow things down. Overtraining can lead to inflammation and injury that'll force you to take a long, unwanted break. So do not feel guilty when you decide you need a nap instead of more squats.
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