Sometimes less is actually more. When you're out of balance and overdo it, too much of a good thing can turn into a not-so-great thing, and exercise is no exception to this.
You're probably familiar with motivational messages like 'no pain no gain', 'go hard or go home', and 'just do it', often plastered on gym walls and thrown around in fitness circles, all in good intention...
But working out for hours on end, skipping rest days, and pushing yourself beyond your limits every day, just isn't sustainable for your body or your mindset.
Keep reading to find out why exercising too much can be detrimental for your progress, as well as our top tips on how to train smarter, not harder.
It's important to tune in with how your body is feeling and pay attention to your energy levels, so you can notice the signs of fatigue and take it back a notch before you burnout or cause an injury.
If you're someone who follows a regular training routine, take a moment to ask yourself these questions.
- Have you been feeling sore in your muscles lately, or do you experience any soreness particularly on one-side?
- Does working out take up a large part of your time, with more than 5-6 sessions a week?
- Do you find yourself dreading your workouts rather than looking forward to your sessions?
If any of those questions are true, it might be a sign that you're overtraining, meaning that your body may be under too much stress from your current exercise routine.
While any exercise is technically a stressor, when it's performed in appropriate amounts, this tends to be a good kind of stress that promotes adaptation, improved endurance, and muscle growth.
However, if you’re exercising too much, too intensely, or both, the body doesn’t get the chance to repair and recover, so the next time you train, you’re basically wearing yourself out even further.
The most common signs of overtraining can show up as:
- Decreased performance - even though you're consistently training and applying progressive overload, your results aren't improving. This might also look like not being able to lift as much, push as hard, or train as long.
Tiredness and fatigue - on top of your performance declining, you may also experience out of the ordinary tiredness, despite if you're maintaining proper nutrition and a healthy sleep routine.
- Irritability and mood swings - when even the littlest of inconveniences suddenly become a big deal and cause emotional responses.
- Problems sleeping - even if you're getting 7-8 hours in bed, you may not feel rested in the morning, or experience troubles falling asleep, frequent wakings or even nightmares.
- Reduced appetite - this often shows up as a general loss of interest in foods, even your favourite treats.
- Frequent injuries - which often include sprains, strains and back aches, even when working with weight loads that you consider light to moderate.
The effects of overtraining can also be detrimental to your goals relating to changing your body composition. If you're burned out you may notice a plateau in progress, as it's incredibly difficult to achieve any change in reducing your body fat percentage or gaining muscle.
The answer to a plateau isn't adding more exercise into your routine, this will only worsen your body burnout.
Train smarter, not harder
Unless you're an athlete training towards specific goals, you really don't need to be exercising for hours on end to make positive progress.
Instead of training more often, try implementing a few of these strategies to maximise your workout plan and train smarter:
- Increase your training volume gradually, if an increase to your plan is necessary. For example, if you’re completely new to training, try starting with 3-4 sessions a week before jumping into a full 5-6 day split. You can still stay active on your rest days by opting for lower impact activities, such as a long walk or yoga.
- Adjust your number of training sessions to suit your lifestyle. If you’re someone who works a really active job or has a busy schedule, 6 sessions per week may not be a realistic expectation for you, and that’s completely fine.
In the MWU App, you can customise your training plan, rearrange workout days to your preference, and remove workouts to create an additional rest and recovery day.
- Stick to your structured workouts and follow the recommended warm ups and rest times. Trust us, you don't need to be adding extra sessions, reps and sets to your workout for the sake of doing more. Your workouts have been strategically programmed to optimise progressive overload and target specific muscle groups without overdoing it.
If you do find yourself with a bit of extra energy to expend at the end of a workout, we recommend adding a finisher, a core circuit, or a mobility routine to cool-down, which you can add to your planner from the Workout Library. Anything other than that is likely too much!
You really should be giving the main workout your all and push yourself with challenging weights and using tempo, as opposed to going through the motions or conserving energy for your finisher circuit. There’s a reason most finishers are marked “optional”, as we don’t expect you to be able to do them every time. Some sessions will already leave you feeling like jelly after the main portion of your training.
- Do your workout at a time of the day that works best for your body and your energy levels. While many people prefer exercising in the morning when energy is highest, others find that it completely wears them down for the rest of the day, and vice versa. So do what works best for you, and try to keep the time of your sessions consistent if possible.
- Listen to the signs when your body is feeling sore or fatigued, and make sure you give yourself the extra rest you require. This might look like swapping for a lighter workout or mobility session, taking an additional rest day, or even a complete break if you're dealing with an injury. Give your body the TLC it deserves and learn some of the best ways to maximise your post-workout recovery here.
- Repeat after us, rest days are NOT optional! Please don't feel guilty for taking a day off. It's crucial for your muscle recovery to have at least one day a week off training to avoid the negative effects overtraining can have on your body. By all means keep active on rest days and opt for non-strenuous movement such as a walk, a swim, or a stretch session, but make sure to keep it light.
Always remember, the aim of your health and fitness journey is looking after yourself and prioritising your wellness. Overdoing your training and pushing yourself to the point of feeling physically burned out is the opposite of self-care.
Keep pushing hard and working towards your goals, but don't forget that sometimes, less is more, so long as it’s done better.