While there are people who suffer from lack of exercise, there are others who end up doing too much, exercising either too frequently or too intensely.
Always remember that exercise, if done in excess, may backfire and harm you instead and making sure you have enough recovery is every bit as important as the exercise itself as that is when you reap the benefits of the stress that exercise causes.
Warning: If You Experience These Effects, You're Overexerting Yourself
The symptoms of overtraining are usually overlooked or ignored, and are often wrongly attributed to other health problems. Here are some signs that you need to reduce your exercise frequency or intensity:
- You feel exhausted instead of energized
- You're regularly sore for days at a time
- You have the blues
- You have a short fuse
- Your legs feel "heavy"
- You get sick easily, or it takes a long time to get over a cold
- You're having difficulty sleeping, or you can't get enough sleep
If you experience any of these symptoms, I urge you to cut back a bit and allow your body to recover between your workout sessions.1
The Importance of Recovery
You cannot create optimal fitness if you do not incorporate wise recovery into your routine. If you do not allow your body to rebuild and recuperate fully, your fitness efforts will be sabotaged and you run the risk of actually getting worse, not better, especially if you're exercising to be healthy and live longer.
Take this, for example: as a weak beginner, you can do high-intensity exercise once a week without putting too much stress on your system. But as your endurance and strength improves, every exercise session will put an increasingly greater amount of stress on your body, especially if you keep pushing yourself to the max.
At this point, you should reduce the frequency of your sessions to give your body enough time to recover in between. Here's an equation you should remember: as intensity increases, frequency can be diminished. To maximize your exercise routine, you should strive for your "Goldilocks zone." This is when you're pushing hard enough to challenge your body at your current level of fitness, but allowing yourself to recuperate in between.
So how will you know that you've sufficiently recovered and can push on with your routine? According to Dr. Doug McGuff, an expert in high-intensity training, you will know that you've sufficiently recovered from your exercise if you have restless energy once again, and you're "craving" some type of physical activity. You will just want to work out!2
So, have fun and play with your exercise routine. As I've always stressed, you need to listen very carefully to your body, both post-exercise and in the interval between exercising. If you feel great and have plenty of energy, then it is a sign you are not over-exercising. You can also monitor your heart rate variability as that is a useful objective measurement of your heart function that provides strong clues as to whether or not you are fully recovered.