How Much Exercise Is Too Much? 9 Signs Of Overtraining To Avoid Burnout

Sweat logo

July 26, 2017

How Much Exercise Is Too Much? 9 Signs Of Overtraining To Avoid Burnout - Hero image

If you’ve ever felt really stressed, you know how draining it can be. Maybe you were under pressure at home or at work and felt overwhelmed for a few days, or perhaps you’ve experienced significant life changes that affect you for weeks or months. 

That feeling of chronic stress and having less energy can be your body’s way of telling you that you need to slow down and make more time for rest and recovery. 

If you notice things are starting to take a physical and emotional toll, it can be a sign you might be heading for burnout, and this applies to your workout schedule, too.

As much as you might LOVE the feeling of smashing your workouts each week, more isn’t always better when it comes to exercise - especially with HIIT or if you already feel run down. Overtraining,  pushing yourself when you’re tired or not allowing your body to recover properly is not going to do you any favours in the long run!

The warning signs of burnout

There are a few warning signs of overtraining to watch out for to help you listen to your body and know how much exercise is too much. Remember to take the time to rest and allow yourself to get back on track if you need to. 

Decreased performance or progress

Although fitness setbacks are common and perfectly normal, if you feel like you’re constantly going backwards with your training, it may be a sign you’re overtraining. When you don’t allow your body to recover before your next session, you end up fatiguing muscles that are already tired, leading to a decline in progress.

Slower recovery or constant soreness

Working out too much or not taking time to recover also explains why you might constantly be feeling sore. Having achy muscles after some of your workouts is normal, but those aches shouldn’t last more than a couple of days.

Digestion problems

You might have heard the saying that the stomach is like a second brain. There’s a really good reason for this! An unhappy digestive system can be a sign you need to take a look at your current lifestyle and routine. 

Stress and overload on your body can not just lead to that icky, heart-racing feeling but can cause problems like reflux and nausea too. When this happens for long periods of time, it can also upset the balance in your gut

According to the NHS, stress can upset the balance of your digestion. For some people, it slows digestion, leading to bloating, pain and constipation. For others, stress can speed up digestion, causing diarrhoea, or worsening conditions like irritable bowel syndrome or stomach ulcers.

Try slowing down, reducing your workout intensity or taking some rest days and see if you notice any changes in your digestion.

How Much Exercise Is Too Much? 9 Signs Of Overtraining To Avoid Burnout - Picture Panel 2 - Desktop

Constant tiredness or sleep issues

While usual tiredness tends to improve after a good sleep, overtraining can lead to a sense of exhaustion that is hard to shake - even after a good night’s rest! 

If you’re pushing yourself too much with your training, you might find you wake up feeling drained, find that usual daily tasks are much more tiring, or that you’re really worn-out after a workout that you could do easily a month ago.

Sometimes you feel SO tired, but you’re not able to sleep when you finally get into bed. Other signals, such as choosing not to go out with your friends because the idea of getting dressed up and going out feels overwhelming, could be a sign that something bigger may be going on and you should check in with your trusted healthcare provider.

Decreased libido

Sex drive gone AWOL? Overtraining can have an impact on your hormones, which can result in a loss of libido. If your sex drive has taken a dive without an obvious explanation, it might be a good idea to think about if your exercise routine has changed and if you need to dial it back.

Lowered immunity

According to the Cleveland Clinic, stress can decrease the white blood cells that fight off infection. This can contribute to poor immune function, leaving you more susceptible to catching a cold or another bug. If you find you are often unwell, or if you have bruises or wounds that just won’t seem to heal, it might be a sign that your body is so busy trying to manage your stress level, it may not have the resources to repair itself.

Changes to your menstrual cycle

The stress placed on your body from overtraining can also affect your hormones, leading to changes to your menstrual cycle or your period completely disappearing. It can be a good idea to track your cycle with a period tracking app to learn what is normal for you, and understand how each stage of your cycle can change how you feel during your workouts, too.

How Much Exercise Is Too Much? 9 Signs Of Overtraining To Avoid Burnout - Picture Panel 3 - Desktop

Issues with focus or memory

Are you finding it hard to concentrate, or to stay focused on tasks you are trying to finish? This can be a sign you need to rest or slow down.  

The same goes for your memory. Are you struggling to remember things, or keep forgetting to do simple tasks that are part of your routine? This can be due to the stress hormone, cortisol

Cortisol is an important hormone that helps regulate things like your metabolism, blood sugar, blood pressure and sleep, and your cortisol level should follow a rising and falling rhythm each day. 

It should peak in the morning and be lowest in the evening. Unfortunately, a lot of us are in a state of high stress and high cortisol more often than is healthy, and overexercising can be part of that.

Short spikes of cortisol can be good for the body, but chronic production of cortisol can impact many of your bodily functions, including your hormones and memory. While it’s easy to laugh things off and chalk them up to forgetfulness, sometimes it is part of a bigger problem. 

When you hit the sweet spot with your workout routine, you should find you feel more mentally alert, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works for you. Making space in your schedule to relax or do things that make you feel calmer and less stressed can also help when your body or mind are very active!

Feeling irritable or mood changes

Imagine this: you’re feeling tired and achy, your stomach is churning and you’re frustrated because even though you have a lot to do, you can’t seem to remember simple things. It’s hardly surprising that you might be feeling a bit short-tempered! 

When you’re on the brink of burnout and have low energy, you may notice you are less patient and feel irritated more easily, which can put a strain on your relationships. Maybe you’re withdrawing emotionally because you feel exhausted and don’t want to socialise. 

Social connection is important for a healthy life, so prioritise your rest and try talking to your friends and family about how you’re feeling. 

While it’s great to challenge yourself, working out should make you feel better overall, not worse. 

Everyone’s bodies and lifestyles are different, so focus on how YOU feel and what works for YOU. Some weeks you might need to reduce the intensity, take extra rest, or swap your HIIT workout for a yoga flow. Listen to your body and move in a way that makes you feel good.

Work out anywhere, anytime with Sweat

Ready for your first workout?

Watch out for early signs of burnout

Just like you can experience burnout from pushing yourself too hard professionally, you can also experience burnout from overexercising.  

Regularly check in with yourself and how you’re feeling, and if you have noticed any of these warning signs, it might be time to mix up your workout schedule. 

Sweat logo

A more empowered you starts with Sweat, and our editorial team is here to bring you the latest fitness tips, trainer recommendations, wellbeing news, nutritional advice, nourishing recipes and free workouts.

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.


Recommended Stories

We have a feeling you’re going to love Sweat

That's why the first week is on us.