With the advent of nice weather, people begin to emerge from hibernation
and take on the outdoor exercise they've been dreaming about all winter.
The problem comes when people take on too much too soon. "There's
a general threshold for the physical body. If there's too much stress,
you run into problems," says Michael Pappas MD, orthopedist with
Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. "If you sit on the couch all winter then go and run ten miles, you'll
get hurt. The people who don't get hurt are the ones who spent all
winter getting ready."
Clues that You are Overtraining
There are a number of clues that let you know that you need to slow down
and let your body catch up to your mind. One is your resting heart rate.
If it stays high after exercise, that's one indication you're
doing too much. Chronic muscle soreness, insomnia and a feeling that your
training is going backward are other clues. "If you hurt when you're
at rest, if you feel pain, you need to slow down your program," says
Overuse injuries are becoming more common in children. "Children often feel pressure
from their parents, teammates and coaches to push themselves to the point
of injury," he says. "By the time people come to see me, they
are injured and I have to restrict their activities." If adults and
children allow injuries time to heal, or condition themselves to prevent
injury, they won't face restrictions on activities they enjoy.
It's about Moderation
The best way to avoid overtraining injuries such as stress fractures and
muscle strain is to start slow, and then increase your activities. "Cross-training
is good, because it uses different muscle groups so they can stretch and
strengthen together," he says. If you like to run, then also do ellipticals
or lift weights. And if you lift weights, don't go too heavy. "It's
better to use a lighter weight with more repetitions," says Dr. Pappas.
Remember to warm up, stretch and gradually increase activity as you gain
strength and endurance. And allow your body 24–48 hours to rest
between sessions. "I had a patient who tried to do two weeks'
worth of training over two days," he says. "He ended up in the
hospital because the volume of training shut down his kidneys."
Dr. Pappas also recommends paying attention to your
shoes. "Shoes only last about three months. I tell patients to buy two
pairs of shoes, and alternate every day," he says. It's also
good to run on a school track or grass, rather than pavement. For more
information on preventing overtraining injuries, visit
OrthoInfo, the patient education site of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
"To avoid injury, be the tortoise, not the hare," says Dr. Pappas.
"If you train at a slow, steady pace, you'll enjoy it more and
still get to the finish line."