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Lately, we’ve been talking about rest days and training schedules a lot, and some of you have been sending me your routines to see if you’re hitting the gym a little too hard.

In most cases, I can’t tell. Most symptoms of overtraining are things only YOU would notice, not something I can diagnose from a few quick workout descriptions. Though I can tell if your attitude might be a tad unhealthy, your body is a whole other story.

The cause of overtraining is simple: you’re not resting enough and/or you’re doing the same exercise too much! Your body needs time to recover. Your muscles grow & adapt when you give them enough time. Doing the same workout day after day can also lead to overtraining, boredom, illness, depression, burnout and possible injury.

Below are some symptoms that can be related to overtraining. Keep in mind several of them can also be signs that something else is wrong: at all times, if taking a few days off doesn’t help, go see a doctor.

Signs You’re Overtraining

1. You’re tired. Exhausted. Physically & mentally. This could mean achy joints, sharp pains or soreness (above average) and slowness in your movement. It can also mean feeling moody, demotivated, depressed or suddenly lacking in energy. This could be a sign that your body needs a break.

2. Heart palpitations: not just a FAST heart rate but one that’s out of rhythm. This can happen anytime, not just during your workouts. During a workout: stop what you’re doing and take your pulse after a few minutes. Might be time to call it a day. If it happens regularly, see your doctor. Also, check your resting heart rate: take it first thing in the morning (before you get out of bed). If it’s too elevated, it could be a warning sign.

3. Your period stops completely or begins to be spotty. This could be a sign of other problems but as women our body fat percentage needs to stay in the mid-teens to mid-twenties for optimal health. If it drops too low this is a sign you should ease off the training and add more rest days to your routine. For most of us, this isn’t a problem. Get your body fat percentage tested to check.

4. Muscle deterioration or a drop in performance: suddenly not as strong as you used to be? Can’t finish your workout? It could be that the weights seem heavier, the run seems harder or ANYTHING that indicates that you’re not as strong as you used to be. With fitness, you should be going UP. If you start to slow down, and you notice it over a few workouts, it’s could be a sign that you’re body’s using muscle for fuel. Take a week off and add more rest days to your routine.

5. Cramps, nausea & vomiting: Nausea & vomiting are CLEAR signs to stop your workout. I mean… really. But cramps can be tricky. As a rule, breathe, stretch, take a few minutes and stop what you’re doing. If the cramps subside, you’re good to go. If not, call  it a day. If you experience cramps OUTSIDE of your workout, it could be a sign that you need more rest days. Again, see your doctor if any of these symptoms happen too often. 

6. You can’t catch your breath or have trouble breathing. STOP. This isn’t the time to battle your way through or warrior it out. Being winded is normal, but if you’re having trouble breathing, and it doesn’t go away after a minute or two, it could be a sign of a respiratory condition.

7. Insomnia. Yes, I know this seems to contradict #1. But some people swing the other way, and aren’t able to get their Zzzz’s. If you’re lying awake after a good long workout, and it becomes a habit, it could be a sign you need a few days off (or need to change your workout to an earlier time).

8. Headaches. This is a tricky one, since there are plenty of other causes for headaches. But if you’ve got one or more of the other symptoms and headaches too, it could be a sign of overtraining.

9. You start getting sick more often. Colds, sore throats, other illnesses. Your body might not have enough energy to fight off colds if you’re over-training.

10. Loss of appetite. Working out more often correlates to needing MORE energy: meaning food. If suddenly you’re not feeling hungry as often, you need to take a look at your training.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s a good idea to visit your doctor to make sure nothing more serious is going on.

The only way to cure overtraining is REST.

How much rest do you need?

Your body needs rest after lifting weights to allow your muscles to recover and grow. When strength training, don’t work the same muscle group two days in a row. That means separate your workout into segments. If you work booty one day, work abs the next etc.

Allow at least one day of rest before working the same muscle group again. Depending on how hard your workout was, you can take 2 days, or even 3.

Can I do cardio everyday?

That depends on your intensity and what kind of workout you’re doing. It’s not a good idea to do the same thing everyday: it can lead to overtraining and stress injuries. You also shouldn’t do intense and difficult workouts every day of the week, since that will also eventually cause problems. If you want to exercise a little each day, go for it. Just make sure you schedule low-intensity workouts as well.

Let’s say you run every day, or bike. Take a few days to add a swim, or a walk instead. Those are called ‘recovery’ workouts. They keep you active, but not working too hard. They also work different parts of your body: an important way to cross train.

Other Tips To Avoid Overtraining/Injury

  • Warm up before your workout. For strength workouts, you’ll want to warm up the muscles you’re working that day while you’re boosting your heart rate. Skip the jump rope: get on the squats and pushups instead.
  • EAT. Your body needs energy to recover and that comes from food. Protein, carbs, fats, fuel etc.
  • STRETCH!! I’m guilty of this, I hate the after workout stretch. But it’s so important. Tight muscles can cause other muscles to overcompensate, which can cause injury.
  • Schedule recovery days AND listen to your body. If you’re 10 minutes into your workout and you’re feeling tired and unmotivated, do something lighter that day. Stretch. Yoga. 
  • SLEEP. Not sleeping enough can be detrimental to your efforts. If you have to choose between sleep and your workout? SLEEP. Sleep should always win.

Remember: it’s better to take a week or so off from exercise & come back fresh than to permanently injure yourself!


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