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

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? 

18 Comments

  1. This post really speaks to me Tina! I’ve struggled with overtraining so much throughout the years…I used to feel guilty for taking a rest day! Can you believe it?
    Now I’m much smarter about my training, and if I’m just not feeling it, rest day it is.
    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. Such an important reminder! I see a lot of ladies at the gym where I teach doing the same things over and over again 6-7 days a week, working really hard. It’s hard because I want so badly to explain to them how they’re not doing their bodies any good by doing the same thing over and over again and working that intensely all the time. It’s definitely a balance, and one everyone needs to learn what’s right for themselves.

  3. The no rep pic!! Ugh man it is the worst. I could only imagine my face when I was no repped last year during an open workout LOL. Great post!

  4. I over trained in college with running. I would run 6-12 miles A DAY with no rest days. In addition to this, I was restricting my calories big time, which led to me losing my period for 3 straight months. I was constantly hungry (and no lie, I would dream about bacon cheeseburgers while I fell asleep). Eventually, I ended up injuring myself and had to stop running. That injury was the best thing to happen to me. It helped me to slow down and not put so much emphasis on what my body looked like as a result from my workouts, but instead on how I felt throughout the day. I now just power walk and do yoga (power, gentle, restorative depending on how I feel) every day. My muscles might not be as strong, but my body feels a whole lot better each and every day.

  5. This was great for me to read today. I think I am currently over training. I work out 5 to 6 days a week, doing a combination of high impact interval training, running, boxing and Bikram yoga. I’ve noticed that my period has been skipping once or twice every few months, and I think this must be why. I’m also definitely hungry for fats and carbs a lot of the time, and I definitely hit a slump at 2 PM that is hard to get out of. I’m definitely going to make some adjustments! Starting with my mindset about taking rest days.

  6. I think overtraining is way more common than most people realize. We are surrounded by harmful “fitspo” with phrases like “You never regret a workout” and mantras that tell us to “push through pain.” This is not a healthy mentality! So many people are pushing themselves to work out every day so they can look a certain way. It’s scary.

  7. Ahhh thank you!! I’ve been feeling this A LOT this week and last. Just the exhaustion. I always do 5 days and right now my programming is amped way up for the open. I am definitely feeling it. I have such a hard time, mentally, taking a day off. I always feel so guilty but right now I can tell my body is definitely telling me to chill. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  8. I give a big ol’ thumbs down to pushing my body when it doesn’t want to be pushed, and I, too, learned the hard way back in college. I also feel SUPER strongly about this same topic but when it comes to food. Over-training and under-eating or depriving yourself of foods because they’re “bad” blows my mind despite having dealt with both. It’s a wild ride – discovering your individual balance with fitness and nutrition. I feel as I’ve grown older, listening to my body and nurturing my body’s needs in food and fitness have become much clearer and I’m so thankful for that. – Kaitlyn | http://www.poweredbysass.com

  9. This was a really great post. Thanks for the reminder 🙂 Do you feel like your body changed (for better or for worse) when you cut back? I definitely think working out hard/too much drives your hunger and is often counter productive.

    1. I think my body is pretty much the same and my hunger is usually pretty normal. Check out the book “Obesity Code.” It’s an awesome explanation how our bodies adapt to exercise and food!

  10. I was definitely an over trainer. I had/have a very physical job, would bike to work and then work out before/after work (and feel Gulty for not doing more!). Having babies broke that for me, now I am happy with an effective 30 minutes

  11. I’ve definitely had a brush with overtraining – continuing to run through shin pain and cold symptoms day after day wasn’t my smartest move of all time. I was scared to take a day off when it was exactly what I NEEDED…I agree, taking a day off is training in of itself!

  12. Very good post! I have some experience on over training and it really is a severe condition!
    I think that people who are really active don’t know how important it is to have rest days.
    I am also a blogger (www.jennikatjawellness.com) and I agree with you in many things that you have written!

  13. Great article! I also use to feel like I HAD to train EVERYDAY or I was being a huge slacker. Social media doesn’t help with that. You open the instagram app and all the fit women I follow are at the gym working out and progressing and here I am sitting in bed with my coffee NOT working out 😉 But, like you said… my rest days were much needed in order to repair and prepare for my next training session. Glad to hear you and others feel that same way as me.

  14. good post this was good and motivating for me to start after i stopped training..”Proper nutrition is essential especially if you’re physically active” this is accurate because most of us think only exercise and training keep us healthy but that i s not the truth we should get more nutrition and healthy foods our body to keep it fit. thank you for this article it was helpful!!

  15. This is currently me. I was working out 6 times a week with a combo of weight training, and training for a half marathon (runwalkrun method) in addition to following a keto lifestyle. I was having such a hard time regulating my breathing and heart rate while running that I ended up at a cardiologist (thankfully I was given a good bill of health) with no clear indication what was going on. I was hungry all the time, tired/moody all the time, insomnia at night, gaining weight, and started hating my workouts. It wasn’t until I had an Active Metabolic Assessment done that I was told that my stress response to exercise was through the roof. I literally had to SEE the data to believe it. Now I’m on a strict, higher carb diet and a lower intensity workout (practically walking). But, in just a week I feel soooo much better. I still have a long way to go before I can go the distance and the intensity that I was going before (if I ever go back to that) but I’m on the road to recovery and I’m starting to learn my body’s stress response signals and tailoring my workouts/daily activity to it.

  16. Tina, Thank you so much for this post. I was exercising 6 days a week and 5 of those days were Crossfit pushing myself to my limits. I thought I was so healthy and that what I was doing was the best thing ever. I even felt that running a 2.4 mile leg of a relay race was not enough for the day and did a 40 min WOD at my gym prior to the race. BUT I was always tired, always hungry, and had a cycle that I didn’t get my period for 43 days. I didn’t realize these feelings at the time. As I read more articles as well as posts from you and other wellness influencers I follow (along with a huge wake-up call from my doctor), I realized I had to make a change or I wasn’t going to get what I wanted. I slowly tapered cutting crossfit to 3 days a week and then due to my goals at this time cut it out completely. I also stopped eating at a caloric deficit which I at first thought would make me gain 10 lbs in a week, but it did not. I am feeling so much better and a lot less sore, tired, and hungry.

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