I’m a self-proclaimed Instagram aficionado. Ever since I was young, I’ve always been a visual person. I love to see pictures of anything and everything – kids, pets, food, vacations, and most prevalent in my IG feed are the workout pics. These pictures range from 800lb + squats and deadlifts, to snatches, yoga poses and more. Of course, as a health and fitness enthusiast, these snaps interest me most.
However, I have recently noticed that people are posting pictures of themselves after a workout that has clearly kicked their ass up over their shoulders, and proudly boasting a comment that reminds us all that they never take a day off.
This type of mindset and behavior seems especially prevalent given the time of year. You scarfed an entire gingerbread house (hey, it happens!), and now it seems only rational to go punish yourself further by practically killing yourself in the gym. This leaves you famished. You eat another gingerbread house. Rinse, and repeat.
“There are no off days!”
I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve piped off the above statement numerous times when I was a young, immature trainee. Years ago, I used to hit the gym with a vengeance, pumped up on coffee and stimulants, and get after it for hours, day in and day out. I’d leave the gym in a gasping, sweaty heap and it was all I could do to crawl to my car.
This type of masochistic workout behavior was typical among the crowd that I hung out with back then and we never took days off from working out. As a matter of fact, I dare say that we based our worth on just how much we could handle.
Spin class in the morning, running at noon, strength training in the evening, all iced off with a 90 minute kickboxing class at night, and that was on a mild day! I thought I was a badass because I could hang with all of that and still be hungry for more.
Know where all of that got me? Absolutely nowhere. Not an inch closer to my goals with performance nor physique. It left me exhausted, hungry, frustrated, and completely consumed by my gym time.
If you are killing yourself in the gym every single day I have a secret to tell you:
It’s one thing to move your body daily – I’d be hard pressed to find anybody that couldn’t reap the rewards of a nice walk or some gentle movement every day – but it’s another entirely to put yourself through hell and back. If you simply train smart and eat and sleep well you can avoid hours of daily punishment that so many people on social media believe is imperative to progress.
How do you know when it’s too much?
Signs that you are overdoing it
ThumpThumpThumpThumpThumpAn elevated resting heart rate is not normal. Curious if you are overdoing it? Start tracking your resting heart rate first thing upon waking, preferably without an alarm clock, and before you even get out of bed. An elevated heart rate is a sign that you’re overdoing it, and/or not recovered properly from your last workout and need a little break. An elevated resting heart rate can also indicate increased stress, in which case you should also take the day off from the gym, and get in some easy walking and R&R instead. If your heart is pounding like crazy, the last thing that you need to do is go into the gym and go crazy.
Jittery “crawling” legs when you lay down
I know this one all too well. Following my all-day workout madness years ago, I used to lay in bed and it would feel like my legs were crawling. They kept twitching and felt like I had to keep moving them. Warning! This is a sign that you need to slow your roll, Tiger.
Too much exercise, especially when it’s intense, will have you foraging through your fridge all the time. If you are constantly hungry, particularly craving sugar and carbohydrates, that means it’s time to back ‘er down. At the opposite end of the spectrum, not having an appetite at all is also a sign of overdoing it, and typically signals that it’s time for a deload or a few days off from working out.
You know what joint pain is. Pain is a red light, and red light means stop (it).
If you are consistently dragging and if you rely on coffee or other forms of caffeine or stimulants to get you through your day, you need to ease off – of both the crazy workouts and the Starbucks. Working out until you drop is bad enough, but pairing it with caffeine is similar to pouring gas on a fire. It can be detrimental to your adrenals, and take it from somebody that knows firsthand (I’ll share my story sometime soon) – that is a road that you don’t want to go down.
Inability to recover
If your muscles don’t seem to be recovering as quickly as they should, or if you are living in a constant state of soreness, this is a sign that things aren’t right.
Overdoing it is a very common problem. So common, in fact, that I can’t think of one nutrition client that myself nor Mike has taken on that we’ve had to recommend that they increase their training frequency. It’s always the opposite: Tone it down. Back it down. Take it easy. You don’t need to do so much. And guess what? They have all gotten results, every. single. time.
Become Fat Loss Efficient
Losing bodyfat takes consistency, stick-to-itiveness, and a considerable amount of patience; what it doesn’t require, contrary to so many of those silly posters on Pinterest, is a daily ass beating. So no matter what anybody tells you on Facebook, Instagram, or otherwise, you most certainly do NOT have to train #everyday. Yes, you need to move your body daily. But get after it like a maniac? Hell no.
Respect your body and heed the importance of recovery. I’m sure you consistently eat smart and train hard, so there is no need to overdo it. Relish in the recovery process. It’s crucial, both physically and mentally. There is a lot to be said about using the minimum effective dose!
Remember, it’s not “The more the better”, but rather it’s “The better the better”.
Be sure to check out these posts:
Top Five “Clean Eating” Mistakes People Make When Trying to Lose Bodyfat
Looking Fit Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Being Healthy
Jen Comas is the co-founder of Girls Gone Strong, head coach of the Strongest You Coaching program, and creator of #DumbbellDomination. Jen is a coach, and helps women cultivate courage to live a bigger and bolder life.
~jenniferlynnDecember 10, 2012 at 10:37 am
Thank you for posting this.. now can we get some ladies to buy into it? Yikes.. the things girls do to themselves! I love 3x a week heavy lifting workouts, and now that I started doing more Crossfit, I'm considering 4 days a week. but 6-7? Noo.. your body needs the time to rest and recover!!
macDecember 10, 2012 at 10:37 am
I've found that overtraining lowers my antibodies and defenses making my more "sniffles" prone. Also, the feeling of training fresh, after the scheduled day off is soooo good!
LindsayDecember 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm
Yes!I so agree. More is not better! Many people are surprised when I say that I have 3 rest days a week. It just helps me push harder on my workout days!
Tara @ Sweat like a PigDecember 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm
Unfortunately, I can relate to this all too much! I used to train every single day, and that is probably the reason why I developed PCOS. Now I'm only doing four days a week, but I still worry that it is too much! I'm thinking of cutting down to three – very far removed from the person I once was!
malitaDecember 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm
It's funny, I go to a gym that heavily promotes workout classes and they are like 60-90 minute circuit kill you yell at you harder harder till you drop classes. I went to one, almost threw up and ended up hurting my knee because I was so tired I wasn't paying attention to my form. Now I just do my own thing in the weight room which is great because its usually just me or one other person as everyone else is in classes killing themselves. I waltz in do a high level 30 minutes and I'm out and everyone else is just getting started, but I'm reaching my goals I'm getting stronger and leaner and am happy at the end of my workout, not exhausted and hurting. Over the months I've noticed a lot of these people look the same, they aren't getting leaner or building muscle…hmmm
LilianaDecember 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm
Love this post, Jen! Personally, I'm far from my goals, but that doesn't mean I don't know its important to take time for your body to recover. I have a friend who is always asking me questions, yet she never listens. She teaches 3-4 Les Mills classes a day; she says she's happy with herself (looks/performance), but she is often telling me how tired she is and is often catching a cold 9like weekly).
That to me, that is someone who's not healthy. Worse, she's depleting her body and one day, she will need to take a longer break than she's like.
Anyhow, thanks for the post!
KyleDecember 10, 2012 at 2:03 pm
Besides resting HR, the pencil tap test is a good way to check for CNS fatigue. Count how many times you can tap a pencil or a pen on a table in 10 secs. Track this every few days, preferably at the same time or the same "distance" from waking in the morning. Same criteria as the resting HR test: A greater than 10% deviation means you're probably due for a day or two of lower intensity.
enlightenedrunnerDecember 10, 2012 at 8:59 pm
Great post. I feel as though many people tend to over-work their bodies around the holidays, be it so they can over-indulge or just not feel guilty about eating holiday treats. The best thing this time of year – don't change anything!
Jen Comas KeckDecember 11, 2012 at 4:33 pm
Ahhh yes! When I was training my brains out a few years ago I was always sick! I lived in a perpetual state of sniffling!
I agree completely – there is nothing like coming back to the gym feeling totally refreshed and recovered!
Jen Comas KeckDecember 11, 2012 at 4:35 pm
I have gone so far as doing 5 days of intense training per week recently and couldn't handle it. I wasn't recovering properly, nor was I able to give my workouts my all. I think that 3-4 days per week is the sweet spot for most people!
6 – 7? No friggin' way! 😉
Jen Comas KeckDecember 11, 2012 at 4:36 pm
Great point. The ol' reaction time test is a good one and something that is used a lot by Mike Tucsherer to program his clients – and that guy really knows his stuff!
Jen Comas KeckDecember 11, 2012 at 4:37 pm
I agree with your approach – work hard, and rest hard!
Your friend sounds like me years ago. There were days I'd teach Body Pump twice, along with Spin class, take kickboxing, and still hit the treadmill! EEK! I was always tired and always sick. No good!
Jen Comas KeckDecember 11, 2012 at 4:38 pm
Ugh. I know exactly the style of classes you are referring to, and it pains me to see them. There are smarter (and more effective) ways to go about getting results!
Jen Comas KeckDecember 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm
Oh girl. I feel your pain here. I plan on talking about this in depth in a future post, but my adrenals are suppressed and my cortisol rhythm is a total shit-show, all from dieting too hard and totally overdoing it. I had to back my training down to 2-3 days per week for awhile, and just now I'm finally increasing it a bit to 3-4 days, and I STILL worry it's too much. I have to be very, very careful of intensity and extremely conscious of my recovery and rest time.
But, on the upside, at least now we can help bring awareness to other people so that they don't make our same mistakes!
Jen Comas KeckDecember 11, 2012 at 4:41 pm
Exactly! And those 3 rest days per week are part of the reason you have that smokin' bod!!
Jen Comas KeckDecember 11, 2012 at 4:42 pm
Absolutely! "Oh, I'll just work this off tomorrow." If I had a dollar everytime I heard that! Eating a bunch of junk + adding stress of overdoing workouts = very hard on your body! EEK!
shevolutionfitnessDecember 12, 2012 at 10:13 am
A great article, Jen! The "peer pressure" we feel has certainly escalated thanks to social media. You'd fill up your hands and toes with all the "inspiration" that is actually unhealthy advice! Thanks for calling it out!
Charles MuirDecember 13, 2012 at 2:26 pm
Great article, Jen! In addition to your warnings against overtraining, I also enjoyed your opening point about boasting through social media and posting pictures with instagram. There seems to be a little too much pride behind some of these posts. Who doesn't do something, eat, sleep, repeat? What are we supposed to take away from seeing these posts? I understand they can be inspirational if they're from someone whose blog you follow and if it's posted in a spirit of motivation. But sometimes it just adds to a sense that we can never work hard enough and it's already easy for goal-driven people to push themselves to the point of injury and breakdown. I got my own motivation from watching Chuck Vogelpohl and Elite Fitness videos and even making adjustments for my less-than-elite level I still got myself into trouble. As a point that we should stop putting into practice — and glorifying — this dangerous mindset getting play on the Internet, I absolutely agree.
the get in shape girlDecember 15, 2012 at 3:26 pm
Been there. Done that. Have the knees to prove it. I like to move every single day. So I train 5 days a week, do yoga and go for a longer dog walk 1 day a week and take one day to just do the dog walking.. unless it's raining, then I let my boyfriend do it!
GráinneDecember 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm
I probably train too often 🙁 But the only thing I can say in my favour is that I deliberately don't push myself to go to crazy conditioning classes as part of it these days. I plan my own workouts and have factored in harder days vs easier days. Working out by myself gives me a bit of leeway to scale it back if I genuinely feel tired or not recovered too. Hard to manage the battle between crazy brain and poor physical body at times though!