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Are You Over-Exercising?

  • Karran Gupta
  • October 2, 2015

Most people really don’t know the answer to this question or even what over-exercising means.

Over-exercising isn’t just about straining a muscle or having an excessive case of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), it has to do with the psychology behind why you workout.

What Is Over-Exercising?

Doctors will tell you that over-exercising can be a very serious disorder, stemming from a need to use a strict regimen of exercise in order to gain control over your life in some way. It can be an addiction.

But here’s the thing. Over-exercising can be a slippery slope. Sometimes you don’t even realize you are doing it.

You think, that’s not me. I’m not addicted. Yet if you have to take a day, a few days, or even a week off, you flip out.

There was a time in my life when I would workout seven days a week for an hour each day. I’m talking hardcore sweaty workouts. I thought I was being “healthy.”

My body would try to give me little signals that I was over-exercising, a little knee twinge here, a foot pain there, a cold, feeling tired all of the time. I didn’t listen.

So, the signals got louder and louder until I finally did.

These days I am much more aware than I was back then. The tendencies still pop up on occasion, but I’m able to rein them in and remind myself why I workout in the first place.

For example, a few weeks ago at the gym, I was headed over to my usual stationary bike so I could get a 20-minute sweat-sesh in, and the bike was taken. No biggie, I hop on the bike next to it.

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I set the resistance to level 8 like I usually do, and start peddling. Then I notice that, wow, it sure is a lot harder to peddle than usual.

Here’s where the old over-exercising tendencies kick in. I think to myself, I bike at a level 8, that’s what I do.

I can’t lower this to a level 7 that would be wimpy. I’m totally going to push through and make this bike my b*tch (okay, I wouldn’t really say that last part, but you get what I mean).

But then I reminded myself the reason why I work out.

I want to feel energized from my workouts, move my body and sweat a bit each day, and most importantly, I want to have a happy body that feels amazing and is going to last a really long time.

I have nothing to prove and who would I be proving something to anyway? No one cares whether I bike at a level 7 or 8.

My whole reason for working out is because I want to feel good in my body, and to force myself to work out at a level that was beyond what I really needed in order to get a satisfying workout, would be silly.

I realize that for some people, constantly pushing their workouts to their absolute max, beating their personal record… that’s their thing.

That’s what makes them feel satisfied, but that’s not my thing, and that’s okay.

How To Know If You Are Over-Exercising

I once read that the difference between a very serious athlete that continues to challenge herself on a daily basis versus someone that has a disordered relationship with exercise is that after a workout the athlete feels great because she is working toward a goal.

On the other hand, the person that has an obsession with exercise feels like she needs to workout in order to feel okay about herself, and even then she isn’t satisfied with what she sees when she looks in the mirror.

What To Do About It

If you think that you might be over-exercising, don’t freak out and get even more out of whack than you already are. Relax.

The good news is that once you become aware that you have over-exercising tendencies, you can start doing something about it.

You can begin listening to your body more, lessen the amount of time you spend in the gym, and get more rest.

You can take some time to reflect on why you workout in the first place—setting healthy goals that support the happy, healthy, active person that you want to be.

Working out can be something that you feel like you get to do, not something that you have to do, and we’re here to support you on that journey.

TAKE ACTION: Leave a comment below with one thing you are committed to doing in order to make your workouts feel like something that you get to do, rather than something you have to do.

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