We all know that regular physical activity is an important part of a healthy lifestyle with benefits for your physical and emotional health. Plus, it can be a powerful way to appreciate the strength and power of your own body while improving body image.
But as with all good things, it is possible to workout too much (or too hard). It’s not always easy to tell when we’re doing this. We live in a culture that often glorifies pushing yourself to the point of burnout — whether that’s in your professional, academic or athletic life. So it’s not surprising that we sometimes see the signs of burnout as evidence that we’re just dedicated or have a lot of willpower. But pushing yourself too hard has real consequences. Here are a few ways to tell if you’re doing this.
1. You stop enjoying it
One of the best ways to establish and maintain a regular fitness routine is to find a type of exercise that you genuinely enjoy. Some of us love going to the gym — but for others, outdoor exercises like walking, jogging or biking may be more fun. If you previously enjoyed your workout routine but lately it has started to feel like just another task on your to-do list — or if you’re flat-out dreading it — you may be pushing yourself too hard. Take a couple of days off, and figure out how you can incorporate rest days into your routine in a regular way.
2. You’re not finishing your workouts
So it hasn’t gotten to the point yet where you’re completely burned out and you’ve quit your routine altogether. But if you’re regularly cutting your workouts short, this could be a sign that you’re working out too hard. There could be a couple of things going on here. It might be the case that you’re pushing your body too hard and it’s getting close to its physical limit. This is an important red flag because continuing to push your body too hard could lead to injury. If this is the case, give your body a break and let it recover. The other possibility is that you’re mentally draining yourself. If this is what’s going on, try shaking up your exercise routine. Either try a different kind of exercise, or vary your routine – for example, if you’re a runner, try a different route.
The other possibility is that you’re mentally draining yourself. If this is what’s going on, try shaking up your exercise routine. Either try a different kind of exercise or vary your routine. For example, if you’re a runner, try a different route.
3. You’re doing HIIT training every day
It’s tempting to think that doing high-intensity training every day will help you achieve a higher level of fitness than alternating with less demanding aerobic activity. But doing HIIT training every day may not give your body enough time to recover. The same is true with lifting. If you’re using the same muscle groups in your lifting routine day after day, they won’t fully recover. Eventually, pushing yourself to do these kinds of workouts every day without proper recovery time is likely to lead to burnout.
4. You’re experiencing pain
It’s true that a certain amount of soreness can be expected when you start to exercise more, or when you up the intensity of your workout. But if the pain persists or gets worse, or if it feels like more than the simple soreness that can be associated with a good workout, it might mean you’re putting your body under too much strain. Increasing the intensity or duration of your workouts can be a good thing, but it’s important to do so at a manageable rate over a period of time. If you’re concerned about any type of pain, contact a medical professional.
5. You feel fatigued after your workout
Yes, a good workout can leave you feeling a little physically tired. But as you’ve probably experienced, that kind of tiredness is different from the fatigued, drained feeling you experience after a stressful day at work. Exercise releases endorphins, so if you’re working out at an appropriate intensity, you’re likely to feel better after you exercise, even if your body feels a little tired. But the latter kind of fatigue — similar to what we experience after a stressful day — is what we’re more likely to feel after a workout where we’ve pushed ourselves too hard.
Finding the right balance is important when it comes to establishing and maintaining a workout routine. The desire to increase your physical activity is a good thing. But in order to avoid injury, mental or emotional fatigue, and burnout, it’s important to know what level of exercise is right for you, both in terms of duration and intensity. It’s tempting to push yourself to your limit, and it can be satisfying in the moment, but eventually, it’s likely to come back and bite you.
Pay attention to your body and to your mental and emotional state. Give yourself a break and a chance to recover if you think you might be pushing it too much.
— Sarah Cooke