Allison Hagendorf by Allison Hagendorf

Being committed to a training program is great, but overcommitting and overtraining can backfire on you. It’s understandable to think that working out more means burning more, but burning “more” can also include burning valuables like lean muscle mass and your motivation.

Train your body to avoid overtraining by looking out for these eight warning signs:

1. You’re not able to complete your normal training routine.

You’re showing up, but are giving up a little too soon or merely just going through the motions. It’s a struggle even to get through it, and you’re staring at the clock, watching each minute pass.  

2. You are painfully sore all the time.

Being sore after your workout is normal, and it’s possible your delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) won’t peak for another 48 hours. However, being constantly sore is a clear sign that you need to back off and give your muscles an opportunity to truly recover. “No pain, no gain” may be a good motivator, but pain all the time is a red flag, not a bragging right.

3. You feel fatigued and sluggish for the rest of the day after your workout.

You are able to muster the energy to complete your workout, but then you are spent for the remainder of the day. Not good. A sweat session can be productive, but if it turns you into a sloth, it’s time to reevaluate your routine and try to pinpoint why it’s becoming counterproductive.

4. You start to crave comfort foods and begin overeating, mindless eating and/or binge eating.

Every efficient training program should go hand-in-hand with a fueling diet to optimize results. This does not include relying on frothy drinks from Starbucks to get through the day, or polishing off a bag of chips or a pint of ice cream once you get home. If you have an uncontrollable craving for caffeine and sweet or salty carbohydrates, it is possible your body is craving these to compensate for its systemic exhaustion. According to human performance expert, Dr. Phil Maffetone, overtraining often leads to “abnormal hunger or cravings for sweets.” Do your best to lay off the excessive exercise and the sweets.

5. You begin experiencing behavioral changes like insomnia, depression, irritability or mood swings.

When you overtrain, you go into systemic overload. Hormones like cortisol and serotonin get out of sync, affecting everything you do. Once you feel the changes—not only physically but emotionally as well—you know you need to take a step back from your training schedule.

6. You stop getting results.

Overtraining means consistently stressing your body. As a result, you are constantly triggering your body’s “fight or flight” response. According to orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey J. Rocco, “Elevated cortisol levels lead to a perpetual catabolic state where muscle is broken down, and fat is stored.”

7. You are getting sick and injured a lot.

Chronically elevated levels of cortisol not only stall your fat loss, but also lower your immunity, making you more susceptible to illness. According to Jay Hoffman, author of the Physiological Aspects of Sport Training and Performance, “Overtrained endurance athletes appear to be at greater risk of infectious illness, particularly upper respiratory tract infections.” Plus, if you are never giving your body a chance to fully recover, you are setting yourself up for potential injury.

8. You are putting fitness before everything else in your life.

Prioritizing wellness is important, but obsessing over your exercise completely contradicts your initial good intentions. If you are consistently choosing your workouts over social engagements or even much-needed sleep, it might be time to reassess your goals and priorities.

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