Is Exercising Every Day Too Much? 8 Signs of Workout Burnout

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You work out for physical and mental health benefits. If even small amounts of exercise improve your well-being, more must be better, right? 

Not necessarily if you go all out with nary a break. Overtraining is a real phenomenon, and it can hinder your efforts and prompt you to throw in the towel. Here’s the signs of workout burnout you should recognize. 

Sign 1: You Hit a Plateau

When you first started hitting the weights, you were adding a pound or two a week to the bar for each exercise. Now, you’ve struggled to bench press the same amount for weeks, maybe months. If you’ve been putting in extra work without seeing the desired results, you might be working out too frequently. 

When you lift weights, it breaks down your muscle tissue. It grows back more strongly in the broken places. However, this healing process takes time, and if you subject the fibers to the same stressors day after day, they lack the necessary recovery time.

Sign 2: Your Performance Slips 

You used to barely break a sweat while running a 5K, but now, pulling that hill makes you slow down and walk. Keep in mind that your energy levels and wellness will vary day-by-day — a low-grade infection could leave you temporarily sluggish.

However, if you hit a rut that you can’t break, take heart — and a step back from your routine. Doctors use the term unexplained underperformance syndrome to explain slippage that you can’t write off as a nasty hangover or burgeoning head cold. Researchers tested the burnout theory on elite athletes and found their performance started to suffer when they skipped rest days. 

Sign 3: Your Heart Rate Stays Elevated 

Your heart rate should increase during a HIIT class — that’s the goal. However, if you take your pulse an hour after exercising and it still feels elevated, consider overtraining as a potential culprit. Once you exceed 10 to 12 hours of vigorous activity weekly, you risk chronic fatigue, dehydration and arrhythmias. You wouldn’t hold a squat for hours on end. What do you think similar strain levels do to your heart?

Sign 4: You Can’t Sleep 

If you had insomnia previously, you might have begun working out to help you get your Zzzs. However, exercising every day can leave you tossing and turning well after lights out. When you work out at more than 60% of your VO2 max — moderate to high-intensity — you raise your cortisol levels. 

Over the short term, this hormone helps reduce your appetite and increase energy. However, long-term overexposure to too much cortisol makes your body think it’s under attack. You develop an elevated alertness that can make getting the shuteye you need problematic. 

Sign 5: You Lose Appetite

If you exercise every day, you walk a tenuous hormonal balance between staying healthy and going over the top. Since cortisol can decrease appetite, one of your first signs of workout burnout can make you not want to eat. 

If you are trying to lose weight, you might rejoice in this development. However, over the long term, you do significant damage to your body and fitness goals. You need the right balance of nutrients to keep your muscles and organs functioning properly, and without it, you can develop adverse health effects like frequent infections. 

Sign 6: You Crave Carbs Like Mad

You might recognize this symptom from life in a COVID-19 world — when you are under stress, your body craves carbs. This phenomenon occurs because your levels of serotonin decrease when you feel tense. However, your physiology doesn’t recognize the difference between self-induced pressure and external stressors. Levels of this vital neurotransmitter drop, leaving you with a french fry run as your sole source of relief. 

Sign 7: You Start Making Excuses 

No matter how firm your New Year’s resolution, you are a mind-body creature. If you feel physically exhausted, your mind will seek to protect you from further assault in creative ways. 

You remember that you need to take care of an Amazon return after work, and chatting with customer service somehow steals away hours. You run low on toilet paper and find yourself strolling through the sewing supplies section — instead of changing into your leggings and hitting the gym. 

Sign 8: You Don’t Look Forward to Your Workout 

Maybe you force yourself to go through the motions, thinking, “Only a few days off will ruin my progress.” While it’s true that you lose fitness quickly, a few days of recovery can lead to significant performance gains. 

Give yourself a break from your typical workout for three to four weeks each year. During that time, you should exercise. However, if you are a runner, try biking or cardio dance. When you return to your first love, you’ll feel a renewed passion. 

Exercising Every Day Can Be Too Much if You Ignore Burnout Signs 

Should you exercise every day? When it comes to a low-intensity stroll, yes. However, if you perform moderate to vigorous workouts, you should reward yourself with rest days to make optimal progress. 

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