How to train like an Olympian -- without overdoing it

  • Dr. Anne Marie Zeller

    Dr. Anne Marie Zeller

By Dr. Anne Marie Zeller
Northshore University HealthSystem
Posted2/17/2018 7:30 AM

It's that time of year when exercise is top of everyone's mind.

New Year's health resolutions continue to swirl, a new fitness trend catches on every day, and the 2018 Winter Olympic Games are in full swing.


The benefits of regular fitness are widely known, but less discussed are the dangers of excessive exercise.

Overtraining is a common concern for athletes at every level and every age. Being aware of the signs of overtraining can help you get the most of your exercise routine, without causing injuries.

What is overtraining?

Overtraining is a result of pushing the body too hard -- past the point of reward.

Injuries can also result when athletes switch abruptly from one sport to another or take an extended period off then attempt to jump back into a routine with full intensity.

What are common signs or symptoms?

The main sign is when you're no longer hitting peak performance.

Overtraining can also negatively affect the immune system as exhausted athletes are not efficient in fighting off ailments like upper respiratory or GI infections.

Symptoms can also include muscle aches and pains, exhaustion, sleep disturbances, lack of motivation and decreased mood.

Can locations or weather impact you?

Changes in altitude levels and climate can have an impact on all aspects of the body, including athletic performance.

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It's important to remember to take time -- sometimes up to four weeks -- to adjust to different environments before engaging or continuing an exercise regimen.

What are injuries can turn more serious?

Athletes can experience small stress fractures -- sometimes diagnosed as shin splints -- throughout their training.

Female athletes are at a higher risk for stress fractures of the hips, which can cause hip pain and limping.

When athletes continue to perform with those minor injuries and then begin to feel pain during everyday activities, it's a sign that something more severe may be occurring.

What are good recovery practices?

Right after training, athletes should stretch muscles used during that session and appropriately replenish electrolytes, carbohydrates, and protein, depending on intensity and duration of activity.


They can even see a masseuse from time to time to help with overworked muscles.

One of the most important parts of recovery is to ensure enough well-rested sleep to allow their bodies to recover.

• Dr. Anne Marie Zeller, DO, MSc is a specialist in Sports Medicine at NorthShore University HealthSystem.

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