Feeling exhausted all day after a workout?
Having trouble sleeping?
Getting headaches during or after exercise?
One of the main reasons exercise programs fail is not because we lack motivation, are too busy, or just can’t do it. It’s because we do too much too soon - and without enough nourishment in between. (Or, because we pick a movement, or an environment, we hate.)
Either way, stress is often the culprit... not motivation, not ability, and not time. And stress is exactly why it's important to watch out for overtraining.
Exercise is defined as the body adapting to a stress over time. Ideally, the stress is positive and positive body adaptations occur. But sometimes -- especially when stress levels in other areas of life are already high and / or inflammation in the body is already present -- movement without proper rest and fuel is a negative stress.
Furthermore, hating what we’re doing, often because we feel forced to do it for some external reason, can actually turn positive stress into negative stress - and work against our goals.
Which means that, when incorporating new movements or when trying to heal our body, “no pain, no gain” is NOT the goal. Sure, we can mentally push yourself, but PHYSICALLY we must respect our bodies - especially when exercising with autoimmune disease.
>>>>> So, how do you know if you're respecting your body limits... or if you're overtraining?
Of course everyone’s different, but I knew I was overtraining when I put a few puzzle pieces together...
First, I took into account the stress and inflammation already present in my life. For me, the biggest stressor right now is an autoimmune disease (and the desire to heal it naturally). If my goal is remission, then I want to look at reducing all stress, including exercise and especially exercise in excess.
The next clue were my energy levels. After roughly 9 months of working out at the same gym (and a lifetime of competitive fitness), I realized I was tired... every. single. day. Sure, you expect to be a bit fatigued when just starting a new workout regime, but still to be fatigued 9 months later just doesn’t make sense. Exercise should give us energy, not take it away.
In addition, I had headaches that would start during a workout — and last all day. Sure, this could be a sign of dehydration, but it‘s also tell tale sign of overtraining and undernourishing.
Finally, dry skin and spots of eczema began to show up. It’d be worse right after a workout and most visible during the weeks I exercised 6 days in a row. Plus, the rosacea on my face flared — especially the day after an intense workout.
>>> How did I know for sure it was overtraining and not something else?
I stopped exercising 6 days a week for 1 hour a day (doing cross conditioning / CrossFit classes) and moved to working out no more than 5 days a week with a max of 2 cross conditioning / CrossFit workouts. The other 2-3 days were for Yoga, strict strength training (with zero cardio) and / or walking.
After doing this for only a couple of weeks, the dryness disappeared, the redness decreased (though it’s still there), the headaches left, and I actually had ENERGY for the day. I was excited to work versus counting down the minutes till I could sit down on the couch. Besides those physical symptoms, I‘m also moving more easily during my workouts because I’m recovery properly in between.
I’d love to know: What’s the right combo of exercise for YOU? Are you currently trying to take it down a notch — or take it up? If you want to take it down a notch, and focus on movement that feels nourishing to your body, I'd love for you to try this free 30-minute guided walk. Not only will you get an invigorating, yet relaxing workout, but also you get a chance to meditate in the process. Grab your freebie here.