A new trend emerging among recreational athletes is extreme exercise, but this habit of overtraining is counterproductive to getting fit and healthy, writes Gina Kolata for the New York Times' Well blog. The body needs to rest—between sets, between days of exercise, etc.—a sentiment that many well-meaning amateurs don't know or acknowledge. “People think a good workout is, ‘I am in a pile of sweat and puking,’" says a UConn professor, but really it "means you went much too quickly, and your body just can’t meet its demands.”
What to do? No precise method for avoiding an overly strenuous training program exists because individual athletes vary greatly, but recreational athletes tend to underestimate the importance of taking time off for recovery. Know the signs: Overtraining begins with constant tiredness and can bottom out in depression. Be aware of your fatigue, recommends a sports psychologist; keep a diary if it helps, and be willing to cut down if the fatigue persists.