HomeSite MapContact
Sex, Body & Health
Your Mind & Feelings
My Story
Healthy Eating
Natural Health
Keep Fit
Look It Up
Video & Games
Email Article   Print Article   Rate This Article   Related Articles 

Overtraining and Compulsive Exercise: Too Much of a Good Thing

Overtraining and Compulsive Exercise:
Too Much of a Good Thing

What is overtraining?
What are the risks of overtraining?
What is compulsive exercise?
What are the risks of compulsive exercise?
How can I tell if I'm overtraining or exercising compulsively?

Exercise is good for you. It makes you stronger and more confident, boosts your spirits, and keeps you fit. So the more you exercise, the healthier and happier you are, right? Not necessarily. When it comes to exercise, too much of a good thing can hurt you. back to top

What is overtraining?
The goal of exercise is to take care of your body and to enjoy yourself at the same time. But it isn't any fun when you feel the need to exercise all the time. If you work your body beyond what it can handle, you're overtraining and risking injury. That happens when you exercise too hard and don't give your body a chance to rest. You need to give your muscles a chance to recover after any hard workout. If you think resting is a waste of time, you should know that hard core training without enough rest can actually make your performance worse. When it comes to exercise, resting is as important as sweating. back to top

What are the risks of overtraining?
Training too hard without giving your body a rest is a sure way to become injured, especially if the same part of your body is stressed over and over again. If you lift more weight than you can handle in an effort to get stronger, faster, you may be overtraining. Your body may react to overuse with stress fractures, shin splints, sprains, and strains. Give your bones and muscles a break. Don't wait for an injury to force you to stop exercising. back to top

What is compulsive exercise?
A girl who exercises compulsively is so addicted to working out that everything else in her life—her family, school, social life, and job—suffers. She may exercise two or three hours at a time. Not only does she feel guilty if she misses just one workout but she's also miserable when working out. Or, she may be addicted to the sense of power and self-respect she feels when working out. Some athletes exercise compulsively due to the pressure they feel to succeed and win. Exercise is the drug of choice for girls who exercise compulsively. And girls who exercise compulsively keep working out even when they are sick or injured. They are so driven to work out that they become emotionally isolated from their friends and family. This isn't exercising for health and fitness. It's a symptom of a serious problem. back to top

What are the risks of compulsive exercise?
If you exercise too much and don't eat enough, your body may go into starvation mode. Even if you aren't seriously underweight, without enough healthy food to fuel your activity level, you may have irregular periods or stop menstruating altogether, a condition known as amenorrhea. And as your body loses nutrients like calcium, your bones can become brittle and age prematurely. You may experience hormonal changes like decreased estrogen levels that lead to irreversible osteoporosis and stress fractures. Your skin can become dry and cold. You are also at risk for getting kidney stones and cerebral atrophy. back to top

How can I tell if I'm overtraining or exercising compulsively?
Many of the signs of overtraining and compulsive exercise are the same because both of these conditions can hurt your body. These include:
  • exhaustion
  • continually sore muscles
  • injuries that keep coming back
  • decreased performance
Because compulsive exercise usually goes hand in hand with eating disorders, its symptoms often have to do with behavior and attitude. For a girl who exercises compulsively, working out is the number one thing in her life. Here are some other signs:
  • She exercises even when she's tired, sick, or injured.
  • She exercises two or more times a day.
  • She freaks out if she doesn't get to exercise.
If you think you or a friend has an eating disorder, talk with your parents or a trusted adult about the problem. And take our self-test. back to top

Last Modified Date: 2/28/2001
RELATED ARTICLES (back to the top)
Strains, Sprains, and Shin Splints
Out of Control with Food
I Think My Friend Has an Eating Disorder. How Can I Help Her?
Having an Anorexic Friend