9 signs your workout is actually hurting you, according to experts

Last updated: 05-04-2020

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9 signs your workout is actually hurting you, according to experts

What you think are healthy exercise habits might actually be hurting you or putting you at risk for injury.

Here are some common signs your workout could be hurting you, according to experts.

Jasmine Marcus, a New York-based physical therapist, told Insider why pain during your workouts is a recipe for disaster.

“Pain is your body’s way of protecting you and it most likely means you are injuring yourself,” she said.

If the pain is localised to one body part, and you’re able to finish a workout, Marcus said you can continue working out, as long as you’re sure to seek medical treatment for whatever it is that is bothering you.

“For example, if your shoulder is bothering you, you should avoid irritating it further with shoulder presses, but there’s no reason you can’t keep working out your lower body,” she added. “Just make sure to eventually seek out treatment for your shoulder.”

Always listen to your body because toughing it out through an injury could end up sidelining you longer. If your pain is sharp, stabbing, or severe, or if you experience swelling, bruising, or any sort of open wound, you should seek medical assistance.

If you’re experiencing dizziness or feeling weak long after your workout, that’s not a good sign.

Mitchell Starkman, a sports and orthopaedic physical therapist based in Canada, told Insider that some dizziness is normal, but it shouldn’t persist.

“If you’re consistently getting dizzy while working out, it’s always a good idea to follow-up with your doctor first,” he said, “That being said, many people become temporarily dizzy while training during position changes.”

Starkman said that, similar to feeling light-headed when you stand up too fast, this dizziness comes from your body readjusting to the pressure change caused by sudden movements (like squats or deadlifts), which can lead to a “momentary lapse of blood flow to the brain.”

Another reason for dizziness could be your eating habits. Every person’s dietary needs vary, but if you’re frequently working out on an empty stomach, it might make you feel woozy during a workout, Starkman told Insider.

Consistent exercise can boost your immune system, however,overtrainingcan backfire and cause you to get sick.

“Exercise is an amazing thing and it, when done consistently, actually boosts our immune system over time,” Starkman told Insider. “That being said, when [training is too intense], after our workouts the body’s immunity actually slightly drops for a few hours, making us more susceptible to sickness.”

If you’re constantly getting sick, you might want to reassess your fitness regime and make sure you’re planning enough rest days and properly fuelling your body before and after your workouts.

Exercise is thought to benefit the quality of your sleep, but if you’re lying awake at night tossing and turning, it means you might be overtraining.

“Insomnia is a sign that your sympathetic nervous system is not functioning healthily and is directly linked to exercising too much,” Chelsea Axe, a board-certified chiropractic physician and certified strength and conditioning specialist at DrAxe.com, told Insider. “An overactive sympathetic nervous system and trouble sleeping are more closely linked to anaerobic activities, like sprinting, and especially heavy resistance training, like weight lifting.”

She explained that, since the sympathetic nervous system is closely connected to the brain’s fight-or-flight response, these kinds of exercises can easily cause insomnia or restlessness.

Working out earlier in the day or scaling back on workout frequency and intensity can help to alleviate sleep issues tied to your workout, according to Axe.

She added, “Exercisers with signs of an overactive sympathetic nervous system could benefit from regular meditation, gentle yoga, and massage.”

If you find yourself feeling tired all the time or leave the gym feeling exhausted instead of energised, you might need to scale it back.

“Sore muscles are common with a new routine, but excessive fatigue is not. If you are getting adequate sleep and are still super tired, there [might be] a couple of reasons,” Megan Ostler, a registered dietitian and the director of nutrition at iFit, told Insider.

Notably, fatigue can have a number of causes you may want to look into. Ostler said a common reason for it, especially in women, is iron deficiency anemia.

“When we are deficient, we can’t transport as much oxygen, and without enough oxygen, our muscles and organs can’t perform the way they should, including converting nutrients to energy,” she said. “Low energy production means low energy for us.”

Another common reason for fatigue, according to Ostler, is not consuming enough calories pre- and post-workout.

“Our bodies work hard to make sure we don’t die from starvation, so when our food intake decreases or exercise increases, our bodies [must learn how to] adapt,” Ostler said.

Although it’s true that you might find yourself hungrier than usual as your body adapts to a new fitness routine, suddenly finding that you’re never hungry should set off some alarm bells.

“Many athletes assume that they can just follow their hunger cues to know how much to eat. However, that isn’t always the case,” Ostler told Insider. “If you are working out at a high level your appetite might actually be suppressed.”

When we sweat, our body releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones that make us feel relaxed and alleviate stress. But too much exercise can actually lead to spiked levels of anxiety or depression, according to Axe.

“Too much aerobic activity can lead to parasympathetic overtraining,” she said. “Symptoms of this include fatigue, depression, and impaired sports performance.”

She continued, “Overtrained athletes can also suffer from adrenal dysfunction, in addition to mood disorders exacerbated by excessive cortisol levels in the body.”

A sign that you’re overdoing your workout routine is if your heart rate is fluctuating at rest.

“If you’re new to exercise, variation in resting heart rate is expected as your body gets into better shape,” Axe said. “But for seasoned exercisers, heart rate variability may be an easy way to pick up on early signs of overtraining.”

Muscle soreness is common in the days after a particularly strenuous workout, but it shouldn’t totally sideline you, and it should go away relatively quickly.

If your muscles are constantly sore and achy, you might be overtraining.

“When you work out, you cause small micro-tears to your muscles. This breakdown is then built over, which causes muscle growth,” Emily Paskins, a personal trainer at iFit, said. “However, if you are constantly ‘tearing’ the muscles down without allowing adequate time for them to rebuild, you will begin to cause a state of constant wear and soreness.”


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