Informational Articles

5 Signs You’re Going Too Hard at the Gym

Balls to the walls isn’t always the best method.

       www.womenshealthmag.com
overdoing it at the gym

PHOTOGRAPH BY SHUTTERSTOCK

You’ve heard the saying time and time again: no pain, no gain. It’s supposed to inspire hard work and determination, but the idea is an antiquated one. Overdoing it could lead to injury. “Plus, when people actually enjoy their exercise, they’re much more likely to stick with it,” says Jordan D. Metzl, M.D., sports medicine physician and author of Dr. Jordan Metzl’s Workout Prescription: 10, 20 & 30-Minute High Intensity Interval Training Workouts for Every Fitness LevelWatch out for these five signs that you should probably scale back—even if it’s just a smidge.

RELATED: I GOT RHABDO AND IT NEARLY DESTROYED MY BODY

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IMAGE BY AMANDA BECKER

A little soreness here, a tiny twinge there—it’s all par for the course when you’re busting out hardcore workouts on the reg. But if you notice a nagging pain in a recurring area (say, your shoulder), Dalton Wong, certified personal trainer and author of The Feel Good Plan, says you may not be allowing yourself enough recovery time in between sessions. “Our muscles and joints need time to rebuild the tiny tears that we create when exercising,” he says. “If you don’t give them that, you’re not making the most of your time and your future workouts will start to suffer.”

What to do: You should be taking active rest days (think: foam rolling instead of lifting) at least twice a week if you’re a high-intensity fitness fiend, says Wong. But beyond that, consider investing in a regular sports massage to improve your range of motion and help ease aches and pains.

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IMAGE BY AMANDA BECKER

You know that scene in Elf where Will Ferrell—err, Buddy the Elf—talks about how smiling’s his favorite? It should be yours, too. Metzl says that if you’re not smiling for at least 80 percent of your workout, then you may be pushing your body too hard. “When you’re not smiling, it generally means that you’ve gone outside your training threshold and you’re possibly doing more harm than good,” he says.

What to do: Slowly scale back until you notice that you can, in fact, grin and bear it.

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IMAGE BY AMANDA BECKER

Labored breathing that causes a side stitch—a.k.a. that piercing pain in the side of your stomach that seemingly comes out of nowhere—is a sign that you’ve hit your max, says Metzl. “It means the accessory muscles you use to breathe—theobliques, the intercostal muscles—are overworking,” he says.

What to do: If you’re out for a run when the side stitch hits, pull back the pace to a walk or light jog, says Metzl. Try taking deep inhales in through your nose, and slowly exhale through the mouth. Feel free to gently press the side stitch to help ease discomfort. But the key to remedying this situation is to focus on getting your breathing back under control.

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IMAGE BY AMANDA BECKER

“While exercise is frequently linked to a decrease in depression and anxiety, when pushing too hard you can become mentally drained, irritable, and experience mood swings,” says John Rowley, certified personal trainer, director of wellness at the International Sports Science Association (ISSA), and founder of UX3 Nutrition. “Many athletes become less competitive in this process as well.” So if you find yourself not giving a f*ck about whether your usual sparring buddy gets in a few jabs on you, it’s time to re-evaluate your routine.

What to do: Try writing in a mood journal, suggests Rowley, or simply use the Notes app on your phone. After each workout, immediately take a few minutes to write down how you felt before you started, during the session, and after. At the end of the week, look back at each log. Do you notice a pattern? If you’re regularly feeling a case of the blahs when you’re usually go-go-go, consider taking a day or two off to recharge. (For tips on how to build muscle without burning out, pick up Women’s Health’s Lift to Get Lean by Holly Perkins.)

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IMAGE BY AMANDA BECKER

Can’t seem to quench your thirst? That’s a sign of dehydration, says Wong.

What to do: “Make sure you drink enough water, and remember that if you train in a hot, humid climate, you may need a boost of electrolytes—coconut water is good for that,” says Wong. How much water you need depends on a lot of different factors (age, weight, sleep habits, how active you are), but theInstitute of Medicine recommends the average woman guzzle an average of nine cups, or about 2.2 liters, per day.

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