With programs such as select soccer clubs and elite track travel clubs, more young girls have declining health due to over-training, over-stress, malnutrition, etc. Could this be your daughter?
I see early burnout with some young athletes. By age 12 or so, many simple don’t want to play their sport(s) anymore because of the pressure of performing at a high level. Some of these programs start as early as 5 years old and are many times year-round programs! Even professional athletes take extended breaks from training and playing games.
Here’s a test for you to do with your athlete daughter or son: Ask her or him if they want to stop playing their sport. You might be surprised by the answer.
Here’s a proven fact that parents need to know: Most athletes don’t play at the higher levels of college or professional leagues. This can be due to burnout, injuries or ability. For instance, on my high school football team of about 70 members, only 2 of us played college ball. I was fortunate enough to play at the Division I level. By age 21, my body was broken down and I was pretty tired of playing anyway.
Females have significant medical risks from over-training, especially athletes. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMSD), some female athletes see amenorrhea (the absence of menstrual periods) as a sign of successful training. Missing your periods can be a sign of decreased estrogen levels which can lead to osteoporosis.
Females who over-train to the point that their periods stop can develop brittle bones and have bone fractures at an early age. According to NIAMSD, some 20-year-old female athletes have been said to have the bones of an 80-year-old woman!
The Institute goes on to report that even if bones don’t break when you’re young, low estrogen levels during the peak years of bone-building, the pre-teen and teen years, can affect bone density for the rest of your life. And studies show that bone growth lost during these years may never be regained.
Broken bones and fractures due to osteoporosis can have lasting postural problems such as “stooped postures.” These “stooped postures” are not a natural cause of aging—spines can be permanently damaged.
Girls and women who regularly over-train or use severe calorie restriction to lose weight are also at risk for many health problems such as bone loss, bulimia or anorexia. If you are “too thin” as an exercising or athletic female, you need to take precaution and take care of yourself.
If you workout or practice every day, that would be over-training. You need at least one day of rest from exercise every week. And, some weeks, you may need two days of rest. Listen to your body!
And, you don’t need long, two-hour workouts. A strength, speed or plyometric workout of 30 minutes will do the job.
The same can be said for cardio workouts. You can tone your body and improve your heart health with 20-minute interval cardio sessions, 2-3 times a week. There is no need for 1-hour, boring cardio sessions that wastes away your precious muscle mass.
According to NIAMSD, females should look for these 10 warning signs when it comes to exercise and over-training:
1. Missed or irregular menstrual periods.
2. Extreme or “unhealthy-looking” thinness.
3. Extreme or rapid weight loss.
4. Behaviors that reflect frequent dieting, such as eating very little, not eating in front of others, trips to the bathroom following meals, preoccupation with thinness or weight, focus on low-calorie and diet foods, possible increase in the consumption of water and other no- and low-calorie foods and beverages, possible increase in gum chewing, limiting diet to one food group, or eliminating a food group.
5. Frequent intense bouts of exercise (e.g., taking an aerobics class, then running 5 miles, then swimming for an hour, followed by weight-lifting).
6. An “I can’t miss a day of exercise/practice” attitude.
7. An overly anxious preoccupation with an injury.
8. Exercising despite illness, inclement weather, injury, and other conditions that might lead someone else to take the day off.
9. An unusual amount of self-criticism or self-dissatisfaction.
10. Indications of significant psychological or physical stress, including: depression, anxiety or nervousness, inability to concentrate, low levels of self-esteem, feeling cold all the time, problems sleeping, fatigue, injuries, and constantly talking about weight.
No one wants to live with those medical problems.
My saying is always this: Don’t wreck your body in the quest for fitness.
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