4 Signs You’re Overworking Yourself at the Gym, According to Sports Therapists

FFor a long time, itness has been full of corny clichés that supposedly help motivate us to work harder. “Feel the burn.” “Give it your all or go home.” “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” The idea is that if we put more effort, we will see results faster.

But more is not always better, especially when it comes to exercise. Constantly engaging in strenuous workouts day after day or increasing the intensity too much can push our bodies to the limit.

According to Kevin M CroninPT, ATC, JSCC, Physical Therapist and Owner of ARC Physical Therapy in Illinois, work overload it occurs “when the difficulty of the exercise exceeds what the body can handle without triggering the body’s own protective fascial reflexes.” This can lead to a number of painful conditions, from mild and fleeting to chronic and severe, it adds.

When physical stress is not balanced with adequate rest, injury and tissue breakdown can occur. Whether you’re lifting serious weights or training for a triathlon, there are several red flags that can indicate you may be working too hard in the gym, he says. Karen Wu, DPT, OCS, physical therapist based in New York. Here are four sports therapists want you to be on the lookout for, and some information on what you can do to help your body recover if you’ve taken things too far.

4 signs you’re working too hard at the gym

1. Burning pain

A burning pain (sharper than, you know, what you normally feel when lifting heavy weight) could be an indicator of potential muscle strain, says Dr. Cronin. Any kind of burning pain or pain that doesn’t go away with rest “could lead to tendonitis or, worse, a tear,” he says. He recommends stopping immediately the moment you start to feel tension: Whether in your joints or muscles, excruciating pain is your body’s way of telling you that the activity might be too intense.

2. Extreme sweating or redder cheeks

extreme sweating, an abnormally flushed face, and increasingly poor coordination are all possible signs of heat exhaustion. “Drink water and go to bed with a cold compress or compress on your forehead or the back of your neck,” recommends Dr. Cronin.

3. Severe muscle pain or cramps

When there’s too much lactic acid buildup in your muscles, it can reduce your tissues’ ability to contract, leading to fatigue and a feeling of heaviness in your extremities, says Dr. Wu. Lactic acid buildup is the result of high-intensity exercise and occurs when there is not enough oxygen in the muscles to break down lactate. It is the body’s way of telling us that it physically cannot continue exercising.

Severe overwork can also lead to rhabdomyolysis, “where muscle fibers break down and enter the bloodstream,” he adds. “There will be associated muscle pain, weakness, and brown or dark colored urine.” With overworked muscle soreness, you may feel pain when working your overworked muscles, but with rhabdomyolysis, the pain is excruciating even at rest.

4. Bad mood and diarrhea

When there’s too much lactic acid in the body, it can cause a metabolic imbalance, which can affect our mood, appetite, and even digestion, “leading to poor GI tract function and food processing,” he says. Dr. Wu.

What to do if you’ve pushed yourself too hard in the gym

1. Rest

If you’re not feeling 100 percent, the best thing you can do for your body is lay down with Netflix for a while and skip the gym until your body gets back on track. Dr. Cronin recommends making the most of your recovery time by icing any sore body parts after exercise and massaging sore muscles to improve blood flow.

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2. Hydrate

Replacing the fluids you lost during exercise is essential for your body to begin the repair process. “The general rule of thumb is one ounce of water a day for every two pounds of body weight,” says Dr. Cronin. For example, if a person weighs 150 pounds, he recommends drinking 75 ounces of water per day on a non-exercise day, and more during workouts.

3. Invest in professional bodywork

“If you do repetitive strenuous exercise, such as triathlons or CrossFit competitions, it may be helpful to see a professional for active release techniques to help reduce the effects of scar tissue on the body from long-term abuse of such activities,” he said. Dr. Cronin recommends. It may not be a relaxing massage, but you will feel better afterwards.

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