Here's How To Know When Your Body Needs A Break From Working Out, According To Experts
This might come as a shock to some of you, but too much of anything is never a good thing, even when it comes to exercising. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be moving your body every day (You should at least try to, TBH.), but there’s a clear difference between taking a walk on your lunch break over sitting in the cafeteria, and hitting the gym seven days a week. In the same respect that committing to an exercise routine is admirable, so is knowing when your body needs a break from working out because, inevitably, eventually, it will — and it’s important for you to not only be able to acknowledge the signs, but to honor them as well.
Trust me, I get it; when you’re lifting heavy, running faster, and you start feeling physically and mentally stronger, it’s borderline impossible not to crave that kind of euphoria. (Endorphins do make you happy, after all.) But think of it this way: If you eat your favorite cookie every day — sometimes multiple times a day — the taste would get old, the sugar rush might start to mess with your digestion, and, there's a chance you'll become highly dependent on that cookie to make you feel a certain way at the end of the day. Believe it or not, fitness can yield the same negative effects.
Remember, part of that “everything in moderation” mantra is knowing when to go without, because, truth be told, aiming for "no days off" is highly unnecessary. What is necessary is giving your body and mind the space it needs to rest up and recuperate, whether that be two days of recovery in between workouts, or an extended period of time clocked out of the gym to focus on your wellbeing.
Of course, if you're someone who has a lot of energy, and feels super motivated to smash out a workout every single day, knowing when to slow down can be a difficult thing to decipher. To pinpoint a few telltale signs that your body needs a break from working out, I reached out to experts for clarification. Here's what they have to say.
Exercise Starts Feeling Like Something You *Have* To Do
Exercise shouldn't feel like a chore. If it does, that's a red flag signaling you to take a breather and re-structure your routine with the types of physical activities you actually like to do.
Not a runner? Skip the treadmill. If the mere idea of lifting something heavy makes you feel out of breath, ditch the dumbbells.
In an exclusive interview with Elite Daily, owner of Alpha Performance, Sam Tooley explains that whenever he starts feeling like exercising has just become another errand, that's his cue to switch up his routine, as well as his goals.
"I can go through long stretches of being incredibly motivated and driven to achieve my fitness goal — whether that’s improving my 5K time or lowering my half Ironman time, etc. But if things get stale, and I stop enjoying my time training, I’m in trouble," he says. "That’s when I shift my goal, and in turn, the type of training I’m doing.”
Arguably the best part about embarking on your fitness journey is that it's yours; when things get tired, you have the power to take a break and start over.
You're Physically Tired, Not Mentally Lazy
Circling back to that whole "too much of anything is a bad thing" concept, during our chat over email, Tooley makes an excellent argument regarding why even something like too much motivation can be an issue. It's awesome to be pumped up and excited about your exercise routine. It's not so awesome to be running with that motivation, despite your body screaming at you that it needs a break.
“[Sometimes when we have a lot of motivation] we push ourselves past a breaking point and get injured," Tooley explains. "There’s a difference between being tired and being lazy. My rule of thumb is usually to alternate hard days with recovery days, or if I’m intentionally loading up back to back days of intense effort, I take a full day off after.”
Your Heart Rate Is Spiking With "Minimal Effort" Or Barely Moving At All
When it comes to heart rate, Joanna Stahl, fitness expert, personal trainer and CEO and founder of Go2Practice says that either one of the extremes — a quick spike, or lack thereof — is a telltale sign that something isn't working out (pun somewhat intended), and it's time to take a step back.
“I typically notice the effect on heart rate from a cardio perspective, and then general aches and pains that feel different than the typical DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) of training," Stahl tells Elite Daily. "Not being able to elevate your heart rate during cardio, or seeing it skyrocket with minimal effort is a key indicator that something is off, and many times you can note the overtraining effect."
Your Form Is Suffering, And Therefore, Causing Your Joints To Ache
Think about when you're going through the motions of a full workday after a sleepless night. Your brain's exhausted, and so is your body, which, naturally, affects your entire performance throughout the day. When your body is exhausted from overworking itself at the gym, your physical performance is bound to reflect that, and it's bad news for your joints.
Aching knees, popping shoulders, and cracking hips are all examples of signs your body is overworked. Co-founder and lead trainer at V Shred, Vince Sant says these are also often signs that you're focused on the quantity of your workouts, rather than the quality of them.
"In fitness, good form is essential to reaching the results you desire and preventing aggravated injury," Sant explains. So let's say you're lifting too much. If that's the case, Sant says it's likely that your body will "try to compensate by sacrificing form," putting you at a higher risk of injury.
(Bottom line: When you start to feel tired, let your body rest.)
Your Attitude Changes, And It Starts To Affect Your Lifestyle
As much as fitness can build you up, it can just as easily suck all the time and energy out of you. According to Jeanette DePatie (aka, The Fat Chick), a plus-sized, certified fitness trainer, overdoing it at the gym can make you feel super "bummed out," to the point where a "blah" outlook on exercise suddenly becomes a "blah" outlook on life in general.
“[A] lack of interest in food or sex or social life is a sign you may be simply exercising too much. (Of course these can also be symptoms of major depression which can be a very serious illness and should be checked out.)," DePatie tells Elite Daily. "Try taking a longer break between workouts and see if symptoms improve," she suggests. If they don't, that's a sign that you should seek help from a medical professional.
You Start To Prioritize Workouts Over Everything
If working out is a priority for you, that's great. If working out is the number one priority, and you start to feel anxious at the mere thought of taking a day off, DePatie says this is an indication that exercise has taken on an unhealthy role in your life, and you need to take a break ASAP.
While exercise is important, and commitment is admirable, DePatie stresses that "if you find yourself skipping sleep or social engagements due to fears of missing a workout," all signs point to your exercising too much. Take a break, think about why you work out as much as you do, and make sure your driving force is a healthy one.