While some people struggle to find the motivation to work out, there are others who find it hard to give their bodies much-needed rest after exercising. Everyone, whether fitness fanatic or amateur, can find it so hard to find a happy medium that is beneficial to both body and mind.
We put so much pressure on ourselves - emotionally and physically - to exercise, that often when we do exercise we can overwork and overtrain muscles, including our brain.
According to research1, Indians are more focused on exercise than maintaining a diet. The study revealed that 53% of respondents said that they exercise regularly while 21% followed a specific diet in order to stay healthy. But can too much enthusiasm toward working out have an adverse effect on the body? Experts2 suggest that overexercising can actually damage the heart muscles and lead to heart failure.
During the recent lockdowns, we relied on influencers and following friends on tracking apps to keep us motivated. But while once we used them to inspire us, now they can act as sources of unwarranted, negative pressures to constantly work out a certain way, or at a certain frequency. How many of us have found ourselves becoming anxious or feeling demotivated when they get a ping saying their friend has done a 10km run - and beaten their personal best?
So, how do you recognize that it might be time to adjust your attitude to working out? This article explores the signs that you might be working out a bit too much, and how to find that perfect balance that is beneficial for both your body, and mental health.
1. You're Sore - Everywhere, All the Time
This happens when you repeatedly work out the same muscle, or set of muscles, for too long. Prolonged muscle soreness can start anywhere from a few hours to 12 hours after a workout, and can last up to two days if you’ve worked out just that bit too hard.
If you’re finding yourself sore, everywhere, all the time - you’re doing too much and putting too much pressure on your body. You can still exercise when your muscles are sore, but make sure to focus on another set of muscles. If your legs or calves are hurting from running, for example, focus on your arms, or hips in a gentle weight-training session.
Drinking green tea can help with aching muscles, as can percussive therapy - a massage technique delivered to your soft tissue through a series of vibrations - heat pads or muscle-relief gel, as well as just good rest. However, if you find after around a week that the pain just isn’t going away, it’s best to get checked out by your local healthcare professional as it could be a case of serious myalgia - deep, widespread muscle pain that can result in sharp aches, or infection.
2. You're Constantly Tired
Do you feel exhausted in the same way that you do when ill, but you know you’re not sick? Being really tired can be a sign that you’re exercising too much.
Fatigue happens when you don’t let your body properly rest after repeatedly exercising - which highlights the importance of having a rest day. You might feel excessively drained and start to lose focus, which can be dangerous, especially if you're running on a road, or cycling, especially.
Make sure that you give yourself enough time out to rest in between heavy workouts, and eat properly before you exercise, too. Exercising drains your carbohydrate, protein and fat reserves, so if you don’t fuel up on healthy, carbohydrate and protein-heavy foods, your body starts to become fatigued as it’s essentially running on empty.
3. You Can't Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
According to a report by IDC3, the Indian wearables market grew an astonishing 144.3% year-over-year growth in 2020. March 2021 saw 20% more downloads of health and fitness apps across iOS and Google Play compared to the previous month according to a study4.
We live in a world full of screens, social media, and devices that make us available 24/7. It’s a blessing and a curse - for exercise, especially. Tracking apps can be helpful in tracking your workouts and fitness, but it can be detrimental to your mental health if you find yourself comparing your workout to your friends’ more often than not.
If a ping from an app is giving you anxiety, and you’re disappointed because you weren’t as fast as your friend, you need to take a step back. Your workout is not a show, it’s yours and yours alone. That goes for if you’re working out just for show, too. Just because you didn’t post it online, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.
If you find yourself simply working out for social media then you need to take a break. Next time you’re on a run, do you need to post a picture of it for others to see? Leave your phone at home, or turn off your notifications. It’s not worth the detrimental effect on your wellbeing for just a few 'likes'.
4. You Start to Have a Bad Attitude towards Your Workout
Sometimes, overtraining can affect your stress hormone levels and make you irritable or feel negative about working out, which may mean that you don’t reward yourself for working out.
This change in hormone levels can lead to restlessness and a total lack of concentration, meaning you’re not putting your all into your workout, thus inevitably leaving you resenting your workout - especially if you didn’t perform well.
Make sure to give yourself rest days where you focus on yourself. Start learning how to praise yourself for even going on a walk, or doing a gentle jog. Exercise should be for pleasure, and when you start to resent it, it’s time to give yourself a break.
5. You Just Don't Feel Like Working Out Anymore
Working out that little too much can lead to a complete loss of motivation and enthusiasm for it altogether. Worrying about your routine, or lack of it, can lead to a decrease in your hormone levels and leave you feeling, well, a little flat about exercising altogether.
Your body is probably physically - and mentally - exhausted from over-training, leading to a slump in enjoyment for the activity you once loved. Try making positive changes to your workout, or adding opportunities to exercise elsewhere in your day. Try running, walking or cycling to your favorite coffee shop, or somewhere brand new. Make it something to look forward to.
And if that isn’t working, it might be worth trying a new activity. What about swimming? Rock climbing? The world is your oyster, and working out should be about what is right, and the most fun, for you.
It's worth remembering that your workout is yours alone - it's for you, and not for anyone else. Exercise is a form of escapism and can be extremely beneficial to your mental and physical wellbeing when done right5.
It's not weak to take a rest day, or to say no and turn off your social media, and tracking apps. You know your body better than anyone else, so be good to yourself and find your happy medium when it comes to working out. When it comes to our mental and physical health, caution and moderation are key to obtaining a happy balance. Being prepared for health hiccups is also a useful tactic to keep worry and stress (a contributor to mental as well as physical health problems) at bay. Plan for potential health emergencies with Future Generali Heart and Health Insurance plan which covers up to 59 critical illnesses. This ensures that, in case of an unfortunate medical incident, you have access to appropriate healthcare without having to worry about the burden of large medical bills.