Don't Overdo It, Groove It

Sandra Keros

What's not to love about a good, long run, hike or bike ride? The freedom of the great outdoors, the let-go of catharsis, and flow of endorphins can be exhilarating. I learned the hard way, unfortunately, that regular pounding exercise routines, especially when overly tired and majorly stressed out, can seriously backfire in injury or even lifelong disease. 

When you are intense about your movement routine, you have to balance it out with other fun, easy-going activities.

So much of our waking hours we have to be "on" with competing demands for our attention and time; we multi-task most hours of the day without break or worry we're not doing enough when we're not. This constant, low-level stress takes a toll on our health in ways that add up. A popular solution: Exercise. But too much too often can wear us down when we're already worn down, even if we don't think we are.

How much exercise is too much? One red flag is overwhelming fatigue. Symptoms of overtraining are evident when you wake up with bleary eyes or have pervasive sluggishness, dark under-eye circles, insomnia, mad sugar and carb cravings, depression and moodiness, just to name a few. "Just Do It" or, "No pain, no gain" can be intoxicating mottos, but regularly pushing yourself when you're over tired can lead to injury and exacerbate commonly unknown conditions such as thyroid disorders and auto-immune diseases that can contribute to fibromyalgia or chronic pain. (See this article by Dr. Mercola.)

"No pain, no gain," right? Wrong. Pain is the second red flag of overdoing it. On one hand, a day of soreness from building muscle strength is normal with above average exertion, but when pointed soreness in a certain area, like the hip flexors, happens regularly with or after exercise over a period of months, you should either stop immediately, change your method and intensity of movement or both before it progresses any worse. 

Remember: You alone are your body's expert. Learn your body's energy cycles and listen for cues, especially if you're going at your exercise punitively or obsessively to deal with stress, overwhelm or low-self esteem. If I hadn't been guilty of these things myself, I wouldn't be where I am now, learning after a hard-fought journey back to health. Moderating demanding exercise programs with plenty of rest and fun, light-hearted activities can give you more of a sense of ease, connectedness, and well-being in your body and your life. 

Hard-Learned Tip: If you have a really stressful job, eat a lot of processed or prepared foods, and wake up feeling "wired and tired" (one sign of thyroid disease) while routinely pushing yourself too hard, it's better to sleep a little longer in the morning, dial back exercise intensity, dial back dubious foods and see an integrative physician to have your thyroid checked out. If not, you could seriously open the door to chronic pain or life-long health conditions that need treatment before they head to anything worse. If you love a good physical challenge, do it gradually - especially if you're just starting out or suddenly under a lot of stress - the tempered pace may seem way too slow at first, but you can build up from there knowing you're doing it safely and easily. Always monitor your body for any sharp pains, overwhelming fatigue or insomnia - ways that your body is telling you to ease up. If under emotional or physical stress, add in more fun activities - rather than pavement pounders - to balance things out. Your body will thank you for years to come. 

"The day you stop racing is the day you win the race."

– Bob Marley

Next blog: Groove: An exercise trend gaining popularity in Europe and the U.S. that's really a lot of fun. 

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