From Olympic-Bound to Burnout: How Acupuncture Helped Me Heal from Overtraining

by Dr. Hilary Patzer |

From Olympic-Bound to Burnout: How Acupuncture Helped Me Heal from Overtraining

I have been a competitive athlete, and person since I can remember. I have never hesitated from healthy competition. I was meant to push the limits, standards, and keep head down and go. My determination and focus blends to provide a recipe of a peak performer, in almost everything I do. I am a striver, mover, and a shaker.

This pushed me to reach international competition in three sports, my doctorate in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, and now my master’s in Health and Performance Coaching. My journey is not for everyone, and that is the beautiful reality of our diverse world, but it has been right for me. I was built strong, but every bump in the road has reinforced that and clarified my vision and goals. Even though it is not right for everyone, I am hopeful that you can gain a few perils from my successes, mistakes, and journey.

As I mentioned above, I have been a competitive athlete for as long as I can remember, and cross-country skiing is the sport I realized my first legit successes. I was a little late bloomer and I was “behind” in the sport. I was still very you at that time, but many of competitors evolved before me and had been skiing for many years even before I joined them.


I was used to getting beat, but I quickly climbed the ranks and breathing down my competitor’s necks. And then one year at Junior Olympics in Bend, Oregon, I “popped” a few races, and that was that. There was no turning back, I had tasted glory and I wanted to win.I stayed persistent on this upward trajectory throughout my college, finally being the fastest American woman in classic and skate races that year at NCAAs Division

People were observing me and I was having a blast pushing my body to its limits. I was invited to ski with the US Ski Team the following year and I happily accepted. What I was unaware that there was a ghost getting ready in my closet, I began my never ending and emotional journey to overtraining.

What Are Some of the Effects of Overtraining?

Joe Park, who is an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Virginia Health System, once told to the Chicago Tribune that injury is the foremost sign indicating overtraining, but overtraining isn’t always visible as a physical injury.

Sleep disorders, crankiness and low motivation may all be caused by hormonal fluctuations that come with overtraining. But the area is not well understood. Cortisol – known as the stress hormone - plays a vital role, but it is unclear how. For female athletes, missed menstrual cycle can also indicate overtraining and should not be taken casually.

An important takeaway from this quote is that very little is known about overtraining, its causes, repercussions, and lasting effects. I personally experienced hormonal and emotional changes, and while my body broke down, I didn’t suffer any injuries, just bone chilling fatigue. Everyone is different and so should be every treatment  Being driven is one of my greatest attributes, but it also became one of my downfalls.I thought that I could train stronger and faster and that would help me race faster. However, that was not the reality, I pushed too hard, too often, and for too long, and my body paid a price. I strike the rock bottom physically and mentally and had to gather myself by my bootstraps.

The most difficult thing to do as a high achiever is to rest and wait.

I had low energy, still I could not sleep well at night. My cortisol levels were the same as someone who had pulled two all nighters and my body ached from lactic acid just walking across the room. I raced from a bullet train to a big wheel. Mentally I was watching my dreams, my goals, and my passions disappear. How could I have been one of the best skiers in the country at one time and the next moment I could barely run a mile. I knew there was something serious going on; so, I need to be patient and receptive.

How Acupuncture Helped Me Recover

Ever since then, I got to know that the biggest nightmare is is to watch your child fall down on their face. I cannot imagine how my parents handled my despair. And they hardly accepted me… I was giving away.

My mom suggested that I should start taking regular acupuncture sessions I did and I loved them. I had found the explanation for my fall, I wanted to be an acupuncturist, and I was ready to witness to this new chapter and help countless people.

I am now a Doctor of Chinese Medicine, licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a Level lll Fascial Stretch Specialist and certified in Cranial Sacral Therapy and Neurokinetic Therapy, and I recently completed my second Master's degree in Health Coaching. I use a combination of all of these skills to help elite athletes and peak performers reach their full potential. You can find more about me and my session  here!

Related Articles

Older Post Newer Post

To a healthier lifestyle and receive holistic recipes | TCM TIPS | SPECIAL OFFERS
My Dao Labs