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STEPHANIE OAKES

Give the Body a Break From Overtraining

March 19, 2001|STEPHANIE OAKES

Question: What can one do to sustain the major joints (hips, shoulder and knees)? I say "sustain" because I am already very active and health conscious, just getting older (45). Nearly daily, I either run, swim, skull row, cycle or weight train for one to two hours. I also stretch daily and take a few days off regularly, but sometimes I am now experiencing a mild "next day" pain in my hip or shoulder joints and am concerned this will only exacerbate with age.

--MICHAEL N. SILVER

Westwood

Answer: With your nearly two-hour daily workout schedule, your joints are probably screaming for some time off because of overuse, overtraining or possibly arthritis.

You should see a sports medicine doctor to determine the underlying medical condition. Even if the pain you're experiencing is simply from overtraining, it's important to have it assessed because "overuse syndrome" commonly leads to more serious injuries. If the pain in your joints is from arthritis, it does make exercising a challenge. For cardiovascular exercise, you'll want to continue doing low-impact exercises such as biking or swimming. Also, try reducing the duration or intensity of your training. Your body needs sufficient time to adjust to the constant physical demands you're putting on it (even if you are cross-training). At the risk of sounding like everyone's mother, I'll say it again: Moderation in everything. Just because some people can do a series of triathlons without as much as a blistered toe doesn't mean everybody's physically cut out to work out that often.

I'm no exception. I'm humbled every time I hit the streets for a run with a buddy who has never experienced any injuries (she even ran a 5K race two weeks after giving birth). When my right knee starts giving me trouble, I know it's time for me to back off. Our bodies need time to adjust, adapt and recuperate. If you're trying to stay fit and healthy for life, then exercising to the point of overtraining is simply taking one step forward, two steps back--not exactly good, long-term training tactics.

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Stephanie Oakes is the fitness correspondent for Discovery Health Channel and a health and fitness consultant. To submit a fitness-related question, e-mail stephoakes@aol.com. She cannot respond to every query.

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