Friday Check-In: Overexercising

Photo by Morgan Sarkissian on Unsplash

Exercising has been one of my wellness practices for many years, and I am fortunate enough to now be at a point where I look forward to it. When my state’s stay at home order was put in place, I found myself with more stationary time throughout the day, and the urge to exercise became greater. I have been exercising six days a week.

This past week, I have felt very run down. My energy levels have been low, and I haven’t been able to complete my usual runs or HIIT workouts. I have been getting an adequate amount of sleep and nutrition. I am not sick. My depression symptoms have been mild. The only other explanation that has occurred to me is that I am overexercising.

According to Shape.com, signs of overexercise include (1):

  • Hitting a plateau
  • Fitness level decrease
  • Weight gain (in severe cases where cortisol levels caused by the excess stress on the body changes your metabolism)
  • Very sore muscles
  • Irritability
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Nagging injury
  • Significant changes to your resting heart rate
  • Compulsion to exercise

I have experienced three of these signs this week: fitness level decrease, irritability, and poorer sleep quality.

I decided to do some research, and I found that The Mayo Clinic provides some general guidelines for the amount of moderate and vigorous exercise one should get per week.

The Mayo suggests at least 150min (2 1/2 hours) of moderate aerobic exercise a week (about 20mins a day) or 75min (1hr 15min) of vigorous aerobic activity a week (about 10min day). Achieving 300 min (5 hours) or more of moderate aerobic activity per week (about 40mins a day) has been show to have additional health benefits (2). Aerobic activity can be considered moderate when you are able to hold a conversation but not sing while performing the activity. Examples of moderate activity are walking briskly, mowing the lawn, and light swimming. Aerobic activity can be considered vigorous when you can’t say more than a few words without pausing for breath. Examples of vigorous activity are running and HIIT workouts. It is important to note that what may be considered a moderate activity by one individual may be vigorous for another. Activity intensity varies by individual (2).

The Mayo also suggests performing strength training exercises on all muscle groups at least twice a week. If your muscles are tired after 12-15 repetitions, you are at the proper resistance level to increase muscle strength (2).

These guidelines are a good starting point for me to analyze the amount of exercise I am getting every week.

Since the stay at home order was put in place, I have been running for 30min three times a week (90mins vigorous activity total) and doing HIIT workouts for 30min three times a week (90mins vigorous activity total) with strength training spread throughout the week. My rough estimate is that I have been getting 180min of vigorous aerobic activity and about 30 mins of strength training each week. This does not account for the chores and errands that could be considered moderate in some cases. I have been getting more than twice the minimum recommended vigorous activity each week that is recommended by The Mayo Clinic (2).

For some, this level of activity is just fine. When it comes to establishing a workout routine and schedule, it all depends on an individual’s fitness level and their personal goals. For me, exercise is about maintaining a weight that is considered healthy by my doctor, strengthening all muscle groups to support my joins, maintaining cardiovascular health, and mental health management.

It is clear that 180min of vigorous aerobic activity a week is too strenuous for me. If I cut back by one workout a week, I will still be above Mayo’s minimum recommended guidelines for health benefits from exercise (2). Even though I am getting out of the house less than normal, I am still getting enough exercise to achieve my goal. I need to remember that the health of my body is of utmost importance, and rest is an integral part of health.

This next week, I will swap out one HIIT workout with a restorative yoga session. I will also make sure to stick to my one complete rest day a week.

I will give love and grace to my body.

Wishing you safety, strength, health, and a life full of joy and ease.


Disclosure: The Tenacious B does not claim to have any expertise in regards to physical activity recommendations. The purpose of this piece is for personal reflection. Always consult a doctor before beginning an exercise routine.

Reference 1: https://www.shape.com/fitness/tips/how-much-exercise-is-too-much-over-training

Reference 2: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise-intensity/art-20046887

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