Post by Valerie

It’s a common practice in the fitness industry to train no matter what. People will go to the gym despite snow storms, not having eaten a square meal all day, and sometimes even when they’re sick. This kind of hardcore dedication can perhaps translate into progress in certain situations, but oftentimes it can lead to overtraining and, ultimately, injury.

Unlike an injury, overtraining is much more difficult to diagnose. It tends to sneak up! So how do you know it’s time to take a break from the gym? If you’re experiencing one or more of the following, it may be time to take a break.

  • You’re dragging yourself to the gym – even to do things you normally love.

Obviously there’s a fine line between simply lacking motivation and dragging yourself to what would normally be a fun workout for you. Some people don’t like working out (and that’s a topic for another blog post), but let’s say for the sake of this one that you’ve found an activity that you enjoy doing. You’ve been at it for a while, things are good and then BOOM, you can’t bring yourself to do it even if you enjoyed it a few weeks ago.

Sometimes life gets busy, sometimes we’re under a lot of stress, and it’s important that we don’t ignore when life hits us harder than usual. Training or exercise, although a great way to relieve stress, can be perceived by our bodies as an additional source of stress – especially if we’re lifting really heavy or doing high intensity workouts. Our bodies can’t really tell the difference between good and bad stress, so sometimes it’s necessary to take a moment to assess if our lack of gym motivation is actually a sign that we just need to reduce some of the stress input in our daily life. Sometimes we have to pick our battles!

  • You’re more tired or sore than usual.

Along the same lines, being more fatigued than usual can be the product of being under a lot of stress. This could also be a sign of hormonal or nutritional imbalances (which you should definitely assess with the help of a doctor), but this is often a sign that you’re overdoing it in the gym and not giving your body enough time to recover. Some experts in exercise science will even go as far as saying ‘there is no such thing as overtraining, just under-recovering’.

When we’re fatigued, we usually don’t perform very well in the gym anyway. So why not take a night off to get some rest, work on gentle stretching and sleep a few extra hours? And don’t worry; if you didn’t gain all your muscles in a day, they certainly won’t disappear that fast either.

  • Your training sessions go from bad to worse.

We’ve all been there: on a roll, achieving a bunch of goals and then all of a sudden nothing works in the gym. Weights that were once easy now feel heavier or are turning into missed lifts. It’s frustrating to say the least.

Most coaches will have their athletes on training cycles that include a deload phase. This built-in rest period is designed to avoid overtraining and injuries. Our bodies are made to function on work/rest patterns. You just can’t be working all the time; you will need to rest and repair at one point.

As the saying goes, sometimes less is more. If you lift more and more weight all the time without any rest, you will reach a ceiling at a certain point. Your body will no longer improve once you’ve overloaded it. In fact, if you do this long enough it will even break. But if you strategically rest after a period of hard work, you will be able to achieve more in the long run, having recovered before you try to lift heavier each time. This is why consistent training and recovery work so well over time – and why quick fixes do not.

So bottom line: listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, chances are you should do something about it!