5 Cardio Red Flags That Might Mean You're Pushing Yourself Way Too Hard

by Georgina Berbari

Many people have an ongoing love-hate relationship with cardio. Getting yourself to actually do it can feel low key excruciating, but once you hop on the treadmill or mount the elliptical, the feel-good endorphins that follow make the experience totally worthwhile. However, if you pound the pavement or have dates with the stationary bike on the reg, there are a few cardio red flags that you should definitely be aware of, to avoid setbacks and injuries.

While symptoms like a sweaty, beet red face, sore muscles, and heavy, Darth Vader-esque breathing all certainly signify that you're giving your workout your all and pushing your muscles to the max, there are also similar signs that your body is crying out for rest. It's important to always listen to your body's signals while you're squeezing in that routine cardio workout, so that your don't overwork yourself and put your muscles, joints, and overall health in harms way.

It might be tempting to take the easy way out and dismiss signs of discomfort, but if you frequently shrug things off, it'll likely lead to persistent pain an distress.

There are ways to stay totally safe while you're out there slaying the cardio game, though. Just make sure you're mindful of these five cardio red flags, so that you're not pushing yourself way too hard during your next sweat sesh.

Your Muscles Are Majorly Shaky

While challenging yourself and pushing your body to its limits is often applauded and revered, it's important to remember that rest is absolutely crucial so that you're not doing more harm than good during your cardio sessions.

If you went aggressively hard during your elliptical workout and your muscles are all shaky and Jello-like afterward, it's time to give yourself some time to breathe, rest, and reset.

According to Pure Barre, shaky muscles (that lead to lack of control when you try to perform simple movements) mean that your body has reached the point of utter fatigue, and pushing it any further would most likely lead to injury.

To prevent things like dehydration and out-of-whack blood sugar levels, make sure not to over-exert yourself during your cardio workouts, and to always back off when your muscles are asking you to. Less is definitely more sometimes, friends.

Your Foot Goes Numb

Pins and needles in your feet is a sensation that's honestly weird AF, especially when it happens during a cardio sesh. If the numbness doesn't go away in a few seconds, don't ignore that sh*t, girl — slow it down.

According to Livestrong, foot numbness during your workout can indicate nerve compression, ill-fitting shoes, a build up of scar tissue in the foot, or swelling in the muscles and joints of your feet.

Make sure you invest in a shoe with a generous amount of toe space, and additionally be mindful that you're not pushing through the actual lack of pain, in this situation.

If the numbness lingers, a trip to the doctor might be in order to give you peace of mind.

You Have Muscle Cramps That Last A While

Everyone gets muscles cramps every now and then (and you low key feel like this is the literal end, and you're going to die on the spot... for real, though).

However, if the cramping sensation extends for a while throughout your sweat sesh, it might mean that something more serious than a fleeting Charlie horse is going on.

Pure Barre cautions that lingering muscle cramps can indicate an overload of intensity during your workout, dehydration or even heat stroke (if you're taking your jog outdoors).

Make sure you really tune into your body and make sure not to ignore these signals. If the cramps have been sticking around for a while, you should probably take a rest, grab some water, and breathe deeply.

Give your body some TLC and come back to your cardio once the cramps have subsided.

You Constantly Get Headaches Post Sweat Sesh

Getting headaches after a run or a cycling sesh can be easy to brush off or simply mask with a couple of Advil. However, looking into the deeper meaning of your cardio induced headaches will help you remedy the problem from the root, so that you can stop the pain in its tracks before your next workout.

According to Runner's World, your post-cardio brain pain can be caused by a number of different things, including changes in blood flow to the brain during your sweat sesh, an imbalance of electrolytes if you're not drinking enough water, or even a low blood sugar situation.

To avoid the nagging sensation, make sure that you're staying properly hydrated both before and after your exercise. This is especially important during those hot summer runs.

Also, be sure that you're fueling your body properly with pre- and post-run snacks or meals because food is life, fam.

Your Neck And Shoulders Are Stiff AF

When you get wrapped up in a consistent cardio routine, it can be all to easy to only focus on your lower body because running, cycling, and using the elliptical are all very leg-centric activities.

However, ignoring your upper body during your sweat sessions can lead to shoulder and neck tension caused by poor upper-body form. According to, relaxing your upper body is key, especially during longer cardio workouts.

To remedy the tension in your upper body, practice keeping your shoulders and neck relaxed during your cardio routine. By doing this, soon, it'll become second nature.

Additionally, during your runs or elliptical workouts, try raising your shoulders to your ears, then dropping them back down in a slow, relaxed motion, to remind yourself to keep your upper bod relaxed.