It seems like every day another fitness class pops up. Barre, cycling, yoga, you name it, and it’s offered seven days a week. There’s no questioning that exercise is good for both the body and mind, but at what point do workouts become counterproductive?
According to experts, there is too much of a good thing when it comes to exercise. In fact, one study found that those who exercised more than three times the recommended amount per week were more likely to develop heart disease than those who exercised a moderate amount. Another concluded that exercising more than 60 minutes between three and five times a week decreases the positive benefits of exercising on your mental health.
Of course, that’s no excuse to stop working out altogether. Rather, it’s all about finding balance. While the amount of exercise the body can tolerate is individual, if any of the symptoms below sound familiar, you may be working out too much and should consider implementing one or two rest days into your routine.
You are dragging yourself to the gym
If your attitude is one of dread day after day, you may be overdoing it. Research shows that when you force yourself to do something you don’t want to do, you start to view it as negative and performance drops as a result. Plus, you can only force yourself to do something you don’t want to do for so long. In this case, take a break from your normal routine and try exploring new classes or exercises until you find something you choose to do because it brings you joy. Hate the treadmill? Try the bike or a dance cardio class.
The way you are motivating yourself is demeaning
Bullying yourself into exercising isn’t healthy either. Looking in the mirror and calling yourself names before lacing up your sneakers or comparing yourself to others in the gym is a sign that you are working out for the wrong reasons. “If you're talking to yourself in a way that you wouldn't want someone to talk to your child or your friends, it is worth taking a step back from exercise to search for a more balanced motivation in your movement practice,” says Lore McSpadden, a personal trainer and owner of Positive Force Movement LLC.
Soreness has become a personality trait
Obviously, you'll be sore after an intense workout or trying new classes. But if you can’t remember the last time you got out of bed without muscle soreness, take a break. “It's important to keep in mind that exercise literally causes micro tears in muscles, but the increase in strength, resilience, power, or endurance happens when the body repairs those tears,” says McSpadden. “The exercise is simply a catalyst for the recovery process. Rest and recovery aren't just important – they are essential.”
You are ignoring nagging injuries
“Listen to your body when it whispers, so you won’t have to wait until it screams,” is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. Exercising through pain can lead to stress on your joints, muscles, and ligaments, and it can also cause to chronic inflammation. If pain or discomfort has persisted for longer than two weeks and you have ignored it, call your doctor and take a few days to rest.
As easy as “take a day off” sounds, if you are used to working out daily, you may encounter some resistance. McSpadden tells her clients, “rest is not a break from the program, it is a part of the program.” When you are working out too much and push yourself past the point of exhaustion, you can lose touch with the positive experience and feelings that come from exercise. At the end of the day, it’s all about finding joy in a good sweat sesh and honoring your body by giving it the rest it needs.
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