Ask the Expert: Am I Working Out Too Much?

Fitness instructor Emily Southworth discusses the signs of overtraining.


Gym photo via

Chances are, there’s somebody in your newsfeed who brags about attending multiple fitness classes per day, or spending three hours at the gym. (Hands up if you are that person.) Those posts aren’t only eye-roll inducing—they may be a sign of overtraining, says fitness instructor Emily Southworth.

“People think it’s a badge of honor to be crushing it 24/7,” she says, “but it’s really not.”

Do you need a fitness intervention? We asked Southworth.

Ask the Expert: Am I Working Out Too Much?

Answer: If your energy is suffering and you’re sore all the time, probably.

The details:

“Being a little sore is a good thing—it means you had an effective workout—but if you’re constantly really, really sore and exhausted, then you’re definitely overtraining, and your body doesn’t have enough time to recover,” says Southworth, who teaches at Barry’s Bootcamp and Recycle Studio.

Southworth says a little tightness isn’t harmful, but consistent soreness that’s so intense you struggle to walk upstairs, or that lasts more than a few days, may be cause for concern. Feeling tired all day, every day, is another tip-off.

If you’re seeing symptoms like these, you may be pushing your body too far, putting yourself at risk of injury or chronic fatigue. To avoid those consequences, Southworth says she gets plenty of sleep and takes two rest days per week, and she recommends that exercise fiends schedule recovery days as diligently as gym sessions. “It’s just as important for your health,” she says.

As for those two- and three-a-day workouts? Proceed with caution, Southworth says.

“A lot of these classes, especially high-intensity classes, aren’t designed so that you should do two of them in a row,” she says. If you feel absolutely compelled to pull double duty, choose two workouts that are very different—yoga and cardio, for example.

With that said, though, take a moment to ask yourself why you feel compelled to go back for more. In today’s fitness culture, exercise can quickly swing from a healthy habit to a compulsion or a source of guilt.

“You almost get anxious about not working out,” Southworth says, “or you are using your workouts as a punishment” for behaviors such as eating or drinking too much.

If that sounds like you, it’s time to ease up. “Working out should be doing something good for you,” Southworth stresses.

The bottom line: Crush it at the gym, but listen to your body. If your fitness routine is causing undue stress, physically or mentally, cut yourself some slack.