New Year’s Resolution, Getting In Shape While Avoiding Overuse Training Syndrome

For Many Americans, getting in better shape is the first thing that comes to mind when choosing a New Year’s Resolution. With the beginning of a new year comes the drive to want to do something different and better than the previous year. New changes, new outlooks, and new workout routines are on the top of the ‘to-do’ list for the coming year. From starting CrossFit, to increasing your workout goals, getting in shape is outstanding for your physical and mental health, but as with everything, there is such thing as ‘too much’. 

As we get into our new routines with fresh motivation, we push ourselves harder – we run faster, swim further, and lift more. Yet while our new workouts may seem outwardly healthy, we may actually be doing ourselves harm in the long run. Why? Well, for some of us the exercise routines we have been inspired to take on have turned from ‘healthy’ to ‘unbalanced’. In other words, as we’ve pushed ourselves on the court, in the pool, or on the bike, we’ve lost track of our personal limits – we’ve fallen prey to what is generally called Overuse Training Syndrome. Now, if the name intimidates you, don’t fear. In this post, we discuss the causes and effects of OTS and we give you advice on how to get back in the right gear. 

Overuse Training Syndrome (OTS) is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: it occurs when the body is pushed too far during exercise and/or training – over and above its limits – thereby causing it to lose its ability to recover in a sustainable and safe way. For obvious reasons, this wreaks havoc on both your health and your training routine, not to mention to your mental endurance. Unfortunately, the most common reaction to OTS is an even greater commitment to training harder, faster, and more often. The results? Well – take a look: 

Firstly, OTS makes you tired – not in the traditional ‘good workout sense’, but fatigued in a way that throws your training and muscle wellness off balance. This type of exhaustion is often confused with a sense of demotivation or laziness, thus leading many people to push-through and push harder. Sadly, this approach does a lot more harm than good, as it delays recovery for longer periods thus placing even more stress on overall health, stamina, fitness, and the body. 

Secondly, OTS feels a little like the flu: a dull aching in your muscles and joints, lightheadedness during exercise, slight nausea, and overall grumpiness follows its onset. In general, OTS leads to the lessening of enjoyment during exercise, as your goals aren’t met and your motivation declines. OTS is thus mentally and physically debilitating. 

Yet apart from fatigue and an overall dampening to your exercise routine, OTS – and its resultant drive to push harder and faster – may actually lead to a number of serious and harmful consequences. Exercising too much, and pushing certain areas of your body to the brink and beyond, often leads to disturbances which may cause short and longterm damage. Examples of these types of injuries include tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis, and patellofemoral pain. Indeed, if the names don’t scare you away, then the pain associated with these conditions will. 

Perhaps more common when it comes to OTS are symptoms you may in fact already be experiencing. These include insomnia, elevated heart rate, appetite loss, decreasing muscle mass, dwindling performance, and muscle soreness. None of these symptoms are particularly enjoyable, and while you may think that exercise more may actually alleviate them, the truth is, increased activity will only worsen them exponentially. 

So, what can you do? You love training, your routine is magnificent, and you’ve finally mastered the art of waking up early enough to get the right amount of activity in before work. How could you possibly change anything at this point? Well, the truth is, it’s time to start being very honest with yourself. Exercise is wonderful for you, but too much of it may actually be putting you at a disadvantage. The key is – as with so much in life – balance. It’s very important to balance the duration, type, and pace of your routines, making sure that no one part of your body is constantly under fire. 

Additionally, though it may be difficult to accept at first, rest is just as important as exercise. It is absolutely crucial that you give your body time off to recover and rest, thus allowing your muscles to repair themselves, your joints to heal, and your endurance to be prolonged. Working out is as much about the ability to listen to your body as it is to push it to be its best. Adding a rest day or two to your week will actually be a lot more beneficial to your workout than skipping them. And, as an extra bonus, you can sleep a bit later on those days! 

In all seriousness, though, balancing exercise and rest is the most effective way of staving off the risks associated with Overuse Training Syndrome. Knowing how to do this is, however, tricky for many of us. That’s why we invite you to speak to one of our dedicated, professional physical therapists today. Whether you’re suffering from symptoms related to OTS, or just want dedicated, trusted advice and help, we’re here for you. With hands-on physical therapy, we offer not only the safest, most effective way of overcoming OTS related pain and injury, but we give you the best possible chance of avoiding these issues in the future. By providing sound advice, tailor-made exercises, and hands-on, quality, treatment, we will elevate your training program in a way that is safe, effective, and free from the stresses associated with overuse and exercise. 

Why not give us a call today? If you’re interested in learning more, just want to chat, or are currently in pain, we urge you to click here to get in touch and request a call. We’re here to help and we cannot wait to hear from you. Don’t fall prey to too much exercise, thereby risking not only your fitness and routine, but your overall health, too. It’s time to make the most of your exercise routine, today. 

Dr. Jamie So

Jamie So, PT, DPT, is the owner and physical therapist of Manual Therapy Effects.


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