As much as exercising is good, does over-exercising exist?
Like everything in life, we need to strike a balance. Even robots need to recharge, and therefore humans need rest too. Unfortunately, there it no magic number for formula to tell us how much is too much. It depends on the level of fitness that one starts exercising and what are the drivers of their addiction for others. While our physical capacities defer, it is only wise to spend time to listen, learn and understand our body so that exercise will build us instead of break us.
Your exercise regime and progression is like a dance of Cha-Cha – enjoy taking the step forward but also know when to take a step back. While having a fitness goal is an awesome start to keep you motivated, pushing too hard for too long may also backfire. Here are some indicators that your body could be overworked through exercise:
1. Recurrent or nagging injuries.
Having aches and pain over a certain area after your exercise? The soreness seems to be always there, it may kind of get better with rest but could be aggravated easily? Sounds familiar? And you find that we have to reduce your exercise intensity or the pain kicks in earlier in from your physical activity? You are very likely to be suffering from an overused injury.
As you continue to exercise with pain, it may increase the risk of developing pain in other areas due to the change in movement patterns during compensation so as to avoid pain. Continued physical activities does not allow the body to rest from the injury – no wonder it doesn’t seem go away! This is definitely a clear indication to seek professional help. The longer you take to address these aches and pain, the more complex the condition may become thus setting you back for a longer period of time.
Also, with the stacking sensation of fatigue from the body, there is an increased risk of injury. This may be due to the use of less efficient movement patterns to achieve the same task, reduced body awareness and ability to react, and poorer activation of muscles for effective force generation.
Do you find it harder to maintain your usual pace during runs or high interval workouts? Are you finding it harder to lift the same amount of weight? While dips in performance may not necessarily be due to over exercising, if you find yourself plateauing in your training despite the many hours put in, it could be your body shouting for some rest!
Are you dragging your feet while you are on your way to the gym? Is there a lack of motivation to get your heart pumping? Your body feels like it is at “low batt” state and would rather stay in the couch to Netflix, it could be your body signalling you to just chill out!
While most healthy and fit individuals tend to have a fairly good immune system, but if you are feeling that you’re falling sick more often, it may be a case lowered immunity. Time to cut back or stop exercising if you are not feeling well or else you may increase the risk of injury.
Your body is exhausted, but you can’t seem to fall asleep quickly when you get to bed? Or perhaps your sleep is disturbed as you wake up in the middle of the night and have troubles falling asleep again. This is likely due to elevated cortisol levels (stress-related hormone that are usually lowest just before you go to bed) resulting in increased alertness making it more difficult for you to sleep.
6. Seems like everyone is on your nerves.
The lack of rest may cause us to be more anxious, irritable or easily frustrated. The hormones that are released when you are emotionally stressed is also released when you are physically overloaded. If your sleep had been disturbed, it may cause you to be more short-fused. Take a break from everyone, go rest and relax.
7. Unintended weight loss & diminished appetite.
While majority of the population would celebrate with incidental weight loss, a reduced appetite without an intention to lose weight may be due to over training. Your appetite may be stimulated by exercise. However, your hunger hormones may be suppressed with over-exercising to slow down the body’s metabolism in attempt to force a reduction in workload.
8. Increased resting heart rate.
Generally, fitter individuals have a lower resting heart rate (taken first thing in the morning upon waking up). It is usually about 50-60 bpm while the average person’s heart rate is 72 bpm. Check your heart rate regularly, and if it is significantly higher, you may want to take a chill pill for the day.
9. Compulsion to exercise.
Does exercise feel like more a “must-do” than an enjoyment? Do you feel guilty or anxious if you don’t exercise? Are you exercising every single day? Maybe you rather exercise than attend social events with your family and friends? If you depend on working faster, harder and longer to get the same high, you might be an exercise addict more than a fitness enthusiast!
Pace out your workouts with difference intensity and exercise type. Ensure that your have at least 6 hours between the exercise sessions. There is no need to train like an elite athlete unless it is your profession, learn to enjoy your fitness journey.
How to Prevent Over Exercising?
Rest, Recognise, REST!
Recognise the symptoms of over exercising, listen to your body. Pain is like our body warning system. Pain is the fire alarm that helps alert you to danger. So be kind to yourself sometimes.
Give yourself the permission to take a break. Even robots need to recharge, let alone us humans! Exercise is meant to be fun and energise us. Therefore, consider taking active rest days by taking a stroll in park or less intense physical activities to allow your body to recover. Recovery is an essential component in all exercise routines and sports massages are definitely a treat to the body to work those sore muscles out.
Ensure that you have sufficient fluid intake during exercise to compensate for the fluid loss from a workout. Electrolyte drinks might be a good option after a hard work out. It is also important to have sufficient caloric intake and wise nutrition choices to match the body’s metabolic demands.
While many people want to maximise their time by shorting their sleeping hours, snoozing is important component for recovery. Nothing Beats waking up well-rested and ready to conquer the day!
Final word from our Physiotherapist
We are seeing an increase incidence of people getting injured over the COVID-19 period. No pain no gain often makes your injuries worse. Sometimes seeking help too late can leave serious repercussions. While we as a Singapore physio applaud your change to a more active lifestyle, we also urge everyone to exercise smartly.