A couple years ago, when I first started to really care about my fitness level, I couldn’t get enough exercise. My body was transforming from frail and flabby into a muscular, thin frame I was proud of and my energy levels were soaring. I hadn’t realized how bad I felt before I started working out, and because I felt so much better, I thought, the more I exercised, the better I’d feel. If I ran another mile, lifted another weight, or swam another lap I just knew I would wake up each morning with an extra little bit of energy so I kept on doing more and more.
Eventually, I learned this is not the case. The human body can only do so much before you get tired. In fact, not only did I finally get tired, but I got sick as well. Very sick. I found myself struggling with body aches, a sore throat, and eventually, because I continued to work out despite the warning signs, I became exhausted. That sickness and exhaustion lead to missing a week of exercise which lead to missing two weeks of exercise and eventually not exercising at all for some time.
A couple months later, I worked out again, got pumped on exercising again, exercised too much again…and, yes, I got sick again.
It is called overtraining, and it is, simply put, doing too much of a good thing. Getting sick isn’t the only unfortunate outcome of overtraining either. Injuries, dehydration, physical plateaus, and even depression can be the result of doing too much. See, just like so many other things, working out can become an addiction, and anything taken beyond moderation into addiction is dangerous.
The lesson I learned is that my body responds best to lifting weights twice a week and doing cardio three times each week. Any more than that (coupled with the physical demands of my job and family life) took too much out of me. Now I live within the plan that works best for me and I continue to improve my fitness and health levels without the fear of sickness, exhaustion, dehydration, or depression that overtraining can bring.