Overdoing Exercise Hurts
By Judi Sheppard Missett
An avid exerciser for years, Karen continues to push herself to meet new fitness goals despite experiencing a chronic feeling of fatigue and an irritating recurrence of upper respiratory infections over the past few months. An appointment with her doctor reveals that Karen has also battled a series of overuse injuries, along with a decline in her exercise performance. Frustrated and depressed, Karen is surprised by her doctor’s diagnosis- Overtraining Syndrome.
Like many people, Karen has always considered overtraining to be a condition faced by elite athletes, not by recreational exercisers as herself. But many dedicated exercisers do suffer from undiagnosed overtraining syndrome. Contrary to popular belief, overtraining syndrome doesn’t necessarily result from an overabundance of physical exercise. Rather, it springs from an imbalance between exercise and recovery time and can strike people of various fitness levels and abilities.
Anyone engaging in physical activity needs to allow time for his or her body to rest and rebuild between workouts. Some exercisers schedule regular days off, others vary the intensity of their workouts as well as the muscles targeted in order to achieve appropriate recovery time.
Weightlifters, for example, are well known for rotating their workouts by focusing on one group of muscles the first day, another group on the second, and so on. Cross-training among carefully chosen exercise activities can have the same effect, allowing specific muscles a day of two to recover before they are challenged again. The message here is to listen to your body. If your experience chronic fatigue, overuse injury, a series of pesky upper respiratory infections, muscle soreness, an elevated resting pulse, insomnia, decreased performance, depression or weight loss despite a healthy appetite, take a close look at your exercise schedule. Are you giving your body enough time to recuperate between workouts? Don’t be afraid to take a day off.
If you find you can’t allow yourself a day off, the problem may run deeper.
Overtraining syndrome can be an indication of exercise addiction, a disorder that has serious physical and emotional ramifications. Your best step then is to seek professional help.
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