Once you get yourself into a good fitness routine, the tendency can be to push yourself hard and keep it up, day after day. You do it thinking that the more you workout, the more fat you'll burn or muscle you'll gain. More working out mean more progress, right?

While that sounds good in theory, the reality is that if you don't work rest days and even weeks into your fitness program, you're actually diminishing the effectiveness of your workout. There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Overtraining can lead to slower fat loss or even fat gains.
    Too much exercise can trip up the balance of hormones such as cortisol and testosterone, which can make your body burn muscles instead of fat.
  • Your muscles grow when you aren't working out.
    When you work out, you cause miniscule tears to develop in your muscles that end up healing when you rest. It's the repairing that builds muscle and makes you stronger, not the tearing.
  • Too much exercise can lead to sleep issues.
    If you're working out all the time and you find yourself either sleeping too much to recover, to unable to sleep at all, you might be pushing yourself to hard.
  • You don't have any energy.
    If you find yourself exhausted and unable to move all day long following your workout, you're overtaxing your body.
  • You can injure yourself.
    Your muscles, tendons, and joints all need recovery time—sometimes a week or more—to heal themselves completely. If they never get the chance, then serious injuries can develop.
  • Your time gets eaten up.
    Living a healthy life is about balance and moderation. If you find yourself working out all the time to the detriment of your work, relationships, and leisure, your balance is off.

If you're worried about overtraining, there are a number of signs to lookout for:

  • Constant thirst.
    Overtraining can force your body into a catabolic state, which causes dehydration.
  • Constant soreness.
    It's natural to be sore after a workout, but it should subside within a day or so. If three days go by and you're still sore, you might be pushing too hard.

While you wouldn't expect depression to follow exercise, if you're working out too much you may find yourself experiencing body issues or anxiety at not exercising as often as you think you have to.

  • Regular illness.
    Exercise is a great way to boost your immune system, but too much exercise means that your body is constantly playing catch-up, which actually makes it easier for you to become ill.
  • Constant joint or tendon pain.
    If you have a nagging pain that won't go away, there's a good chance that you've injured yourself.

Overtraining can be easily avoided by making sure that you take one or two days off every week. After a long stretch of hard training, it's usually a good idea to give yourself one or even as much as two weeks off. And I mean off. Get some quality rest.