You’ve been told all these years to keep pushing yourself at the gym, especially with strength training; you must work harder, go beyond what you did last week or month or you’ll never get lasting results.
This is true. But it’s important to know the difference between challenging yourself and hurting yourself by working your body too hard, also known as overtraining. This usually isn’t an issue until you’re working out on most or all days or at high intensity.
These are some red flags to be aware of:
- Severe soreness or muscle cramps — When lactic acid overloads your muscles it can lead to feelings of fatigue and heaviness, particularly in your arms and legs. This usually happens with high-intensity exercise when the available oxygen can’t meet the demand on the muscles to break down the lactate content.
Overtraining also can lead to the breakdown of muscle fibers that enter your bloodstream, leading to severe pain that doesn’t improve even with rest.
- Extreme sweatiness and flushed cheeks — If you’re perspiring more than you usually experience during exercise, your face is red and you’re noticing you’re not as coordinated as usual, you’re likely experiencing heat exhaustion, so you need to stop, hydrate and get some rest.
- Burning pain — When you feel a burning or stinging pain in your muscles and joints in addition to any usual discomfort that comes with lifting weights, it could be a sign of muscle strain, which can deteriorate into a muscle tear or tendinitis if you don’t halt your workout and allow some recovery time.
- Mood changes — Feeling more anxious or irritable than is normal for you and having trouble focusing on tasks in the gym, at work or other settings can be another indicator of lactic acid buildup or hormone imbalance that can result from overworking yourself during fitness training.
- Digestive/appetite issues — An overtrained body is too stressed to handle many functions at full capacity, including energy-sucking digestion. Your liver may not be capable of breaking down nutrients properly, causing bouts of diarrhea or constipation and a suppressed appetite that doesn’t jibe with your level of physical activity.