My Experience with Over-Training + Signs You Might Be Too

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Hi, I'm Tina!

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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Too much of a good thing can actually halt your progress physically.

I remember the days when I exercised 6 or 7 days a week, and I would go ALL OUT during my workouts. I loved the feeling immediately after finishing a workout (I still do!), but, looking back, I now know I was most definitely overexercising.

The photo below still makes me laugh. I was so pissed that my own husband “no-repped” me during a CrossFit Open workout. Haha! I took CrossFit so seriously back then. Now, I hardly pay attention to my time or score – as long as I break a sweat, I’m happy! 🙂 My new motto: I’m just here to work out.

Looking back, at the time, I truly didn’t realize I was over-training. I was just doing my thing and enjoying my new found love for CrossFit/super focused on my training for a marathon. Now that I work out much less (3-5 times a week and much shorter workouts), it’s SO obvious – and there are several signs that I’m now aware of when it comes to the amount of physical activity I’m doing each week. Here’s how you know you might need to take a break from exercising so much:

You’re always hungry. 

Proper nutrition is essential especially if you’re physically active. Without the right vitamins and nutrients, your body cannot operate optimally – and when you frequently feel hanger pangs, your body is trying to tell you something. Same goes if you’re craving one macronutrient all the time. LISTEN to what your body needs. I remember during marathon training, I would wake up in the middle of the night and eat cereal because my body wanted CARBS so badly. I mean, I was running for hours at a time. Same goes when I find myself with my spoon in a jar of nut butter (calorie-dense) a half dozen times in one night. Obviously, I didn’t eat enough and my body needs calories! The more you push it at the gym, the greater your risk for accident, injury, and illness. Maybe you’re over-exercising in an attempt to lose weight faster. Severely restricting calories and upping the time spent exercising is dangerous and not sustainable long-term. It’s counterproductive because you’ll end up wearing yourself down, getting injured, or burning out completely before you reach your fitness goals

You’re exhausted all the time.

This often occurs during the later stages of over-exercising. When you disrupt your metabolism (and hormones!), you’ll notice feelings of fatigue and lack of motivation kicking in. Even though you were once bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about your exercise routine, eventually exhaustion has caught up with you and made it much harder for you to workout like you once were. The “ah-ha moment” for me was when I found myself exhausted at times of the day when I wasn’t usually tired, like first thing in the morning even after I had slept well and already been awake for a couple of hours. I just couldn’t get going. I’m such a morning person, so it didn’t make any sense why I was dragging so much. Additionally, post-workout, I’d need to lay down or even nap, which wasn’t normal for me and a huge sign that I was overdoing it with my workouts. 

Your period is MIA.

Luckily, I never lost my period during times of hard training, but I feel like this happens a lot and so many women don’t think it’s a big deal, which is further from the truth. I’m obviously not a doctor, but losing your period from overexercising and/or under-eating is a problem. Again, your body is trying to tell you something! Additionally, if your hormones are out of wack, you can also experience sleep issues, hair loss, cold hands and feet, acne, inflammation, changes in digestion, and more. For further reading, check out this post from Precision Nutrition: Fitness & menstrual health: How to stay lean, healthy, and fit without losing your period.  I also love the ladies on the Well-Fed Women podcast for sharing all sorts of amazing info related to overexercising, under-fueling, and hormones. And, of course, talk to your doctor!

At the end of the day, I learned quality is better than quantity when it comes to my workouts. If you’re exercising too much, you’re likely not giving your body the time that it needs to rest and repair itself. Rest days count as training, too! It may be tempting to schedule an extra workout throughout the week, but if it leads to over-exercising, you’ll plateau and not see the results in the gym and/or on the scale that you were hoping for. 

Question of the Day

Ever fall into the over-training trap? How did you escape? 

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