Marine weightlifts with spotters
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5 Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Injury and Overtraining

There’s a fine line between waking up to sore muscles that make you feel like you accomplished something in yesterday’s workout and being so sore — or even injured — that you can’t carry out your daily responsibilities. Reaching your peak fitness level requires ramping up your workouts and pushing yourself, but you also have to listen to your body and be patient or you may experience setbacks and even injury.

Slow down

Overtraining can lead to a number of issues, including:

  • Musculoskeletal injuries — strained muscles, torn ligaments and stress fractures
  • Hospital stays
  • Extensive rehabilitation
  • Time lost from work or family
  • Decreased mission and family readiness
  • Physical and mental fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Change in appetite
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Weight loss at unhealthy levels
  • Depression
  • Increased blood pressure

Take the right steps to prevent injury

Understanding the risks associated with extreme conditioning programs can help you reap the benefit — peak fitness — while avoiding injury from overtraining. Make sure your goal to better your health doesn't end up doing more damage than good.

  • Step #1: Ask your doctor about your exercise regimen to make sure you're healthy enough to participate in your chosen program.
  • Step #2: Start small. Gradually increase the exercise intensity and duration to let your body adjust to the challenge at a safe pace.
  • Step #3: Make rest mandatory. Increase the rest between intervals when you start a new program. Plan days of reduced or no conditioning to give your body a chance to recover.
  • Step #4: Eat a balanced diet with plenty of carbohydrates, proteins and essential nutrients.
  • Step #5: Watch for symptoms of overtraining, like fatigue or muscle soreness beyond the next-day soreness, and adjust your training accordingly.

If you don't know where to start and want some fresh ideas to spice up your workout rotation or need a little guidance on your path to fitness, here are some suggestions:

  • Join a Morale, Welfare and Recreation group fitness class at your installation. Consult with Morale, Welfare and Recreation fitness professionals, so you can learn proper form and seek exercise modifications.
  • Get a workout partner with a similar level of fitness at the gym, on the jogging trail or at another military recreation facility. Spot each other. Motivate each other. And call each other out when you're pushing too hard.
  • Make the call to Military OneSource, and book a health and wellness coaching session for tips on reaching your fitness goals safely. You don't even have to leave the couch for this one, so there's no excuse not to try.
  • Work with a personal trainer or Morale, Welfare and Recreation fitness professional to find the right combination of exercise and time to devote each week to meet your exercise goals injury-free.
  • Vary your intensity and your fitness program with activities at your Morale, Welfare and Recreation's rec center, sports leagues and recreational activities. Burning calories doesn't always have to feel like work, sometimes it's actually fun.