Exercise is incredibly important to maintain good health. The human body is effectively an incredibly complex machine. Adequate amounts of exercise keep everything in working condition, from hormone regulation to bone density.  Frequent aerobic and anaerobic exercise will bring a variety of benefits. On top the physical benefits, you can look forward to a gigantic boost in your self-esteem as you ensure that you are constantly striving to be the best version of yourself. Your mental health will be in a better place too as your body is constantly flooded with endorphins, effectively communicating to you that you should keep doing what you're doing.

But it's possible, and in many ways easy, to exercise too often.

Over-exercising is a harsh reality for most modern athletes. Even a casual gym goer can begin to feel the effects of over-training, especially if their nutrition and resting periods aren’t well organised. But what are the warning signs that you should be spending more time at rest? Why even worry about it?

The Symptoms

There are a handful of key symptoms to look out for. These will be a solid indicator of the sustainability of your training habits. When you start to notice one or more of these issues, it's time to slow it down.

Decreased Strength & Endurance

Without significant rest & recovery, your progress will be significantly hindered. One of the most important aspects of any training is progressive overload. This is the approach of making gradual, incremental improvements to either the weights you’re lifting or the number of repetitions you’re doing. This causes your muscles to get stronger and larger as they slowly adapt to the increasing workloads you're subjecting them to. When you over-train, this process has to be put on hold.

Irritability & Fatigue

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Over training often means that you’ll require more sleep than usual to have a solid chance of recovering. As most people work in occupations where it’s not practical to opt for a long lie, this can be difficult to manage. As such, you’ll find yourself going to work tired, causing irritability as your emotional state is heightened. You’ll also be more prone to bouts of fatigue throughout the day.

Weakened Immune System

It's no secret that any level of physical activity is strenuous for the immune system. But over training can actively dwindle down your immune system to the point where you run a serious risk of catching a cold/flu. This will hinder your progress even further when you're bed ridden and unable to train at all.  A weakened immune system also results in a faster rate of depletion of specific amino acids (such as glutamine) that could otherwise contribute to muscle gain

Other Symptoms Can Include:

  • Infertility issues
  • The cessation of your period. (in women)
  • Weaker bones caused by excess cortisol
  • Insomnia
  • Post-workout exhaustion
  • Orthopaedic Overuse Syndrome

The Causes

The root causes of over-training are more nuanced than you would think. You don't actually need to be constantly exercising to begin seeing these problems. Getting inadequate amounts of sleep, poor nutrition or bad training habits can all lead to similar issues.

Poor Sleep

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You should always ensure you are getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Sleep is absolutely critical; this is when your muscles do the majority of their healing. It's also vital in production hormones such as testosterone. Low testosterone levels can result in slipping into an over trained state much easier. This is primarily because testosterone oversees protein synthesis in the body.

If you are struggling to get adequate rest, then you should invest in a supplement such as ZMX Tablets, this blend of zinc, magnesium and vitamin d6 is commonly used by athletes to promote recovery during rest periods.

Greenock Telegraph: credit: SAS Nutritioncredit: SAS Nutrition

Poor Diet

You should analyse your diet to ensure you're meeting your daily requirements in terms of calorie and macronutrient intake. If these are fine but issues persist, you might want to start thinking about your micronutrient intake: Are you getting enough iron? Enough Vitamin C?

Poor Training Habits

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Your training habits should be noted too. No one should train hypertrophy in one muscle group 5 times a week or for 2+ hours continuously. Make sure your training habits are responsible and realistic. Muscle groups should not be trained with isolation exercises any more than twice a week. Gym sessions, provided you're training efficiently, should rarely last longer than an hour.

Note: If you have eliminated all possible causes and are still experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, you should immediately look to speak to a medical professional as soon as is conveniently possible. A wide variety of illnesses and deficiencies can present themselves under similar symptoms and a quick diagnosis could be very important.

Struggling To Stop? Worried About A Friend?

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Do you feel like exercise is more of an obligation than a personal choice? Perhaps you're overwhelmed with guilt when you skip a day of training. One of the early signs of an eating disorder beginning to manifest itself is over training. It's important to reach out to a professional as soon as possible if you begin to suspect that you may be in this situation. If you're having trouble figuring out if you're training compulsively or not, here are a few questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do I exercise in spite of injury?
  • Do I exercise in spite of illness?
  • Does my exercise interfere with my social life?
  • Do I exercise privately to hide how often I do it?
  • Do I exercise in order to justify eating?

If you answered yes to one or more of these, it may be time to reach out. It's not always easy to evaluate your own personal biases when it comes to things like this, and there's no shame in reaching out.

If any of these do not sound applicable to you but remind you of a friend, it may also be worth considering that they are in fact over training. If a friend frequently skips important social events in exchange for the isolation of the gym, this could apply to them too.

The important thing is to remember what exercise is about at its core, keeping healthy and having fun. When you're no longer achieving either of these goals, it's time to dial it back.

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