How to Avoid Overtraining for New Exercisers

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When you're just getting started with exercise, you have to worry about a lot of things. How to set up a safe and effective program that includes the right amount of cardio and the right kind of strength training, for one.

And you also have to think of the mental side of exercise, how to get and stay motivated and how to avoid skipping your workouts when life gets in the way.

You might not think of exercising too much, but that's just the sort of mistake many beginners make—doing too much too soon and putting themselves at risk for injury.

So, how do you know how much is too much? You have to learn to listen to your body in a whole new way.

How to Know If You're Overdoing It

There are some very obvious signs of overtraining, some of which include the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Achiness or pain in the muscles and/or joints
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Elevated morning pulse
  • Sudden inability to complete workouts
  • Feeling unmotivated and lacking energy
  • Increased susceptibility to colds, sore throats, and other illnesses
  • Loss of appetite
  • Decrease in performance

If you realize that your workouts are suffering and you've lost interest and energy, it's a great time to take a break from your routine.

This could mean a few days to a week of complete rest or doing something low key such as yoga or stretching. The trick is to listen to your mind and your body and allow them to take a break if they need it. You'll come back to exercise refreshed and energized.

How Much Is Enough?

So, how do you avoid this? It's all about testing out your limits without going too far. I know, not an exact answer, but everyone's body responds to exercise differently, so you just have to pay attention and back off when you feel like something isn't right with your body. Try some of these tips for avoiding too much exercise and keeping your body healthy and fit:

  • Ease into your workouts - If you've been sedentary or only lightly active for a while, it's important to ease into your training. Start with something simple like 3 days a week of walking or some other cardio and a basic strength program a couple of times a week.
  • Keep your workouts simple - Start with just one set of your strength exercises and focus more on slowly building endurance during your cardio workouts rather than burning a lot of calories. That can come later.
  • Take extra rest days as needed - Starting anything new will often make your body sore. Be prepared for that and take rest days when you need to. You won't have the same energy levels from day to day or even from week to week.
  • Consult with a personal trainer - Not sure where to start or what to do? This is a perfect time to meet with a professional who can look at your history, fitness level and goals and come up with a program that will meet your needs.

Programs to Get You Started

Sometimes you just need a little help getting started with exercise, so try some programs to help you get into it without too much confusion, like Fitness for Absolute Beginners, a 4 Week Jumpstart Exercise Program, and 30 Day Quick Start Guide for Beginners.

By Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."