There’s nothing like a good hour of circuit training, cycling, or swimming to get your blood pumping, build endurance, and burn through calories at the speed of light. If you love your cardio as much as many athletes do, you may find yourself on the treadmill or slaving over the rowing machine for over an hour a day, but is all that work really paying off?
If your go-to exercise involves a lot of sweating and jumping around and not a lot of weight training, you may be going on a cardio overload, which can cause major stress on your body and halt your progress in its tracks. Your physical and mental health can become strained from too much cardio exercise. Eventually, you’ll feel too tired and burned out to continue with your training. Here are the signs that it’s time to stop doing so much cardio and add in other forms of exercise instead.
1. You’re constantly tired
Getting your blood pumping at the gym is a great way to increase your energy levels — lightly jogging on the treadmill for 30 minutes or going to a spin class every week is a great way to feel energized and ready to tackle the rest of your day. But if you’re finding that no matter how much coffee you drink or sleep you get, you’re still exhausted during the day, you could be overdoing your cardio routine.
The Huffington Post explains exercise is a form of physical stress on the body. The more exercise you do, the better equipped you are to deal with it, which is what increases your endurance over time. There is a limit to your body’s stress capacity, though. If you’re putting your body through too much training too fast, you won’t be able to cope. You’ll also be more susceptible to illness and exercise-induced injuries. Try lightening your sessions and adding some weight training.
2. You’re feeling weaker
Cardio is great for burning through the day’s calories quickly, but overall, it’s strength training that’s really going to help you shed pounds and look toned. While a mix of cardio and strength training is key for your health, doing too much cardio can actually eat away at your muscles, which can actually make you weaker over time. Livestrong.com explains that when you’re performing cardio, you’re burning fat as well as a small amount of muscle. If you overdo it, you could be burning more muscle than you intend.
3. You can’t sleep
An increasing number of studies have indicated exercise can help you soundly sleep through the night. For those of you who love to go to the gym after work, this is great news — your workout sessions are helping you fall asleep faster and stay asleep through the whole night. But this benefit is only true for those who don’t do too much cardio, says Mercola Peak Fitness. If you find you spend most of your evenings wishing you could fall asleep faster, you may have been on the treadmill too long that day.
When you do too much cardio, your stress hormones become chronically elevated, which means your heart rate rises, you become more alert, and you have more blood flow to your muscles. Cortisol, the stress hormone that also plays an important role in your sleep cycle, should be at its lowest levels when you’re going to bed. Overdoing your cardio can keep your cortisol levels spiked, which may lead to insomnia.
4. You’re more prone to injury
If your cardio routine is leading to extreme aches and pains, then you need to make sure you’re not doing too much. This is even more true if you always use the same cardio machines. AZCentral explains your muscles and ligaments can become inflamed from overuse. One of the most common injuries from cardio is plantar fasciitis, which is an injury that occurs on the bottom of the foot and is common among those who run too much.
When you’re doing too much cardio, it’s common to feel pain in the knees, hips, feet, and lower back, and you shouldn’t ignore these symptoms, either. And even though cardio is supposed to lead to better heart health, you can cause damage from doing too much. Listen to your body, and when you’re feeling aches and pains, lighten up your routine.
5. You’re on a cardio machine for over an hour a day
If you have your cardio routine so solidly memorized that you know exactly what speed you should be running, how many calories you’ll burn, and how much time you’ll be spending on each machine, then your cardio sessions have likely gone too far. This is particularly true for those who hop from one cardio machine to the next for over an hour. Not only are you cheating yourself of the benefits strength training provides, but you’re also going to feel bored, tired, and burned out, which can completely halt your progress.
High intensity interval training is one of the most efficient ways to increase your endurance, change up your routine, and keep things interesting. During a HIIT workout, you’ll be alternating between active rest and full-body cardio workouts that require your maximum effort all in less than 20 minutes. The best part about HIIT is that you’ll be building muscle, increasing endurance, and burning calories more efficiently all day long. You won’t be spending all day at the gym, either.