Law of Diminishing Returns for Athletes

Law of Diminishing Returns for Athletes

Published: January 19, 1999

For Jill Farwell, a Los Angeles public relations executive, pushing herself is almost as natural as breathing. So two years ago, when she discovered a passion for competitive rowing, she went full-throttle, training for up to two hours at a time on either an ergometer or in a boat. But after eight months of almost-daily workouts, her rowing pace began to slip — not improve. ”I couldn’t understand why my body couldn’t match my drive,” she said.

Exhaustion became her constant companion. ”My muscles were tired all the time. I felt like my blood was running in slow motion,” she recalled. One day after a particularly strenuous boat practice she had to lie down on the dock for half an hour.

Frustrated, Ms. Farwell consulted a naturopathic physician, who told her she had overdone it and ordered her to stop exercising.

Many Americans put ”exercise more” at the top of their resolutions, but for a small group of people like Ms. Farwell, working out too much is the real problem, according to a consensus statement issued by the American College of Sports Medicine and the United States Olympic Committee. The report, which advises coaches and athletes to stay alert to the symptoms of overtraining, is summarized in the January issue of The Sports Medicine Bulletin, published by the sports medicine college. The report appears in full on the organization’s Web site (


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