I recently talked a bit about overtraining as a stressor in life. But, talking about overtraining always bring us back to the simple question of how do we actually know that we are overtraining? How do we know we legitimately need a break and aren't just making excuses?
Only you know the answer for sure, but there are a few things you can think about in order to better answer that question for yourself.
It basically comes down to the real reason you feel any resistance towards exercise.
- How many days in a row have you worked out?
- How many days have you worked out this week?
- Are you on track with your goals and desires?
- Is exercising new to you and therefore uncomfortable right now?
- Are you feeling how you want to feel in regards to your physical health? I.e. energized, light on your feet, etc.?
- Are you hesitant to exercise because your body is really tired and feeling heavy today?
- Are you doubting whether or not you should go because you've been working out really hard lately?
- Are you not feeling your workout because you haven't been eating great?
- Are you trying to find a reason or an excuse to make it ok to not have to work out today?
When I'm questioning whether or not my workout intentions are truthful, I always ask myself these two questions:
- Is there anything else I would legitimately rather do?
- How stressed am I in life right now?
Is my boyfriend here for only the weekend and I'd rather spend time with him?
Is there a good book I want to read instead?
Have I not been sleeping well and think it'd be better to catch up on rest?
Is work stressing me out and so I need something relaxing - whether an easier workout or complete rest?
Is my life in a big transitional state (and therefore very stressful)?
When asking yourself the question "is there something I'd legitimately rather do?", it's important to note I'm talking about something you might not always have the opportunity to do or something that is taking high priority for a specified period of time. In other words, it's not "I'd rather watch another hour of television, "I'd rather eat more doritos", or "It's going to be hard, so I'd rather do anything else."
If the answer is YES there is something I'd rather (or need to) legitimately do or I'M REALLY PRETTY STRESSED, then I'd recommend either a complete rest day or a shorter, recovery based workout.
Why are we talking about stress so much? Exercise is a stress on the body. Although it's ideally a positive stress (or eustress), it is still stress. Therefore, if life in general is pretty stressful at any given period (such as a big transition or deadline), you might want to consider taking it easier during your exercise practice. Incorporate more mobility work, flexibility practice, active recovery, Yoga, core work, long walks, or playful movement until other stress in your life slows down. This will help reduce the risk of injury.
If the answer is NO, literally nothing sounds good in this moment or EH, I'M REALLY NOT STRESSED, then a workout might be exactly what you need to get out of your head, re-energize your focus, and let some endorphins loose.
Over time, you'll get better at understanding your core intentions when it comes to exercise. As long as you try to stay consistent with your goals and how you desire to feel the majority of the time, you will get where you want to go.
If you have trouble with this, first think about what type of exerciser you are.
- Do you tend not to workout as much as you'd like? If you struggle fitting in or actually doing your exercise practice more often than not, then you'll want to watch your intentions and may have to push yourself harder to consistently go the gym. You'll have to choose to make it a priority so that you can feel the way you desire to feel. It might help to start your day with your workout as often as possible.
- Do you tend to work out all the time and feel guilty when you don't? If you struggle taking time away from your exercise practice more often than not, then you'll want to be especially careful to notice the warning signs of overtraining. These signs may include trouble sleeping, exhaustion, mood swings, irritability, sadness, rashes, bumps, or acne, injuries, etc. The eventual goal is to learn when you need rest before the warning signs get intense.
Do you struggle with overtraining? Or do you struggle to get in your workout in the first place?