Signs It's Probably Time to Rest

Is it true that too much exercise can actually be detrimental to you?  Can you exercise so much that you are actually getting weaker, rather than stronger? There is a simple answer to that: YES! The condition is called over-training. Perfect training doesn’t just include the work you put in at the gym, or during your runs or classes. There is the formula for success and here it is: Work + Rest = A Great Training Plan. Proper rest allows your body to recover and rebuild itself incrementally better than it was before. Over-training can be defined as a medical condition with symptoms that may not readily appear, or ones that you may not realize are symptoms at all. This occurs when the volume and intensity of your exercise exceeds the ability of your body to recover. In fact, you can actually halt your progress and start to lose the strength you have worked so hard to gain. But what are these signs or symptoms that may be telling you that you need to rest? Let’s take a look.

Here’s one sign that’s difficult to detect: a lack of motivation and/or behavioral changes. Sure, there are days we all lack motivation to go to the gym, and that’s normal. However, when that lack of motivation gets us down, causes us to be irritable or to not feel like ourselves, it might be time to take a break. When you over-train, your hormones go into overload and may become unbalanced. Cortisol and serotonin levels can fluctuate and cause these feelings of depression, irritability and overall lack of motivation; not just for going to the gym, but to do ANYTHING. These might be signs that it is time to take a rest from your training.

Another sign of trouble: Are you sore all the time? Do your bones, joints, or muscles persistently ache even if you do not do a normal exercise session? Some people believe that soreness is a positive sign of strength gain; and it is, to a point.  Muscles can be sore up to 72 hours post workout, as delayed onset muscle soreness sets in. However, chronic muscle soreness is a clear and obvious sign that it is probably time to rest and allow your muscles the chance to fully recover.

Do you have the willpower to get your workout in, but feel as if the quality of your workout and the results are not noticeable? Are you not able to run as fast you could two weeks ago? Are you finding that you can’t lift the normal baseline weights during your strength session? A decrease in muscular performance along with an increase in muscle cramps or spasms can lead to an increase in injury, loss of strength, poor overall performance, and seeing no positive gains. If you experience these symptoms it is a telltale sign that it is time to rest. Not only is rest key, but proper nutrients also play a role in limiting muscle aches and pains during rest and recovery. Several key nutrients like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium can all be found in common foods, such as milk, bananas, watermelon, avocados, and dark leafy greens.

Would you like to have a positive effect on your resting heart rate? Adapting to consistent exercise will lower your resting heart rate to a level below that of those who don’t exercise. The human heart rate isn’t set like a metronome; it is somewhat variable. Have you noticed that your heart is racing all the time; that even when you wake up first thing in the morning, your heart is beating faster than it should? An elevated resting heart rate can also be a sign that it’s time to rest. While it’s normal for your heart rate to be elevated after exercise, it is unusual for you to have a rapid heartbeat upon waking. If you’ve overdone your exercise routine, your body could be in an increased metabolic state to help eliminate the byproducts of exercise and to meet the demands of your workout. This can be due to the increase in the response of your sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our “flight or fight” response. Your heart might be racing due to an exacerbation of this response and in turn be releasing adrenaline at an increased rate. When you wake up, and after exercise, your body is responding as if it was an emergency, just to assist in meeting the demands of your workout. This is a vital sign to monitor, as it is your body telling you it is time to rest. One way to monitor this is to check your heart rate upon waking. Experiencing one day with an elevated heart rate is not a big issue, but if it continues for several days, it’s probably time for a break, and a conversation with your Primary Care Physician.

The best way to avoid over-training is to think preventatively. Ensure that you plan proper rest days into your training schedule. Try and get at least seven hours of sleep a night, to fully allow your brain, nervous system, muscles, and joints to recover. When you start to feel over tired, reduce the frequency and volume of your training load. If you reach the state of over-training, stop and rest. There are several other active recovery techniques that can assist in your recovery. Examine your nutrition, and assess if there are some modifications you can make to improve your eating habits. Use massage and trigger point therapy to assist with tight muscles, applying tools such as lacrosse balls, foam rollers, and massage sticks. These remedies can help release tension and knots in the muscles and get rid of toxins that may have built up in the tissues. As a reward, once in awhile, why not schedule a massage with a professional, because, who doesn’t like a good massage after a long period of training?

Over-training is a state many people don’t realize they’ve reached, but knowing the signs and symptoms can help support a full recovery and get you back to your normal training load, without any lasting effects.


Matt Gloss