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

What are the 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 unable to fight off ailments like upper respiratory or GI infections. Symptoms can also include muscle aches and pains, exhaustion, sleep disturbances, lack of motivation and moodiness.

Can new locations or weather impact athletic performance?

Changes in altitude levels and climate can have an impact on all aspects of the body, including athletic performance. 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 some common injuries that can develop into more serious ones? 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 of something more severe.

 What are the best recovery practices after rigorous training sessions?  Right after training, athletes should stretch muscles used during that session. They can even see a masseuse from time to time to help with stretching 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, is a specialist in Sports Medicine at the NorthShore Orthopaedic Institute