If you couldn’t tell by my previous posts I am a big fan of rest, recovery, and getting the appropriate nutrition in to keep your body working efficiently. I can’t stress this enough, because overtraining causes so much havoc in the body, such as performance declines, nagging injuries, and decreased quality of life. I was the epitome of an over trained runner throughout college and a tad afterwards, and it resulted in 7 stress fractures, lots of over-use injuries, and it has taken me some time to get my body back to fully functioning. I don’t want this to happen to you!! So, if you just ran a fall marathon and have now set your sights on another one, or perhaps some faster races; here are some ways to avoid the pitfalls of overtraining. Let’s work to keep our body well rested, full of energy, & performing like beasts!
Overtraining simply is when the volume (distance) & intensity (speed) of an individual’s training exceeds their capacity to recover quickly enough.
Overtraining can leave athletes with:
- Muscle wasting
- Fatigue (Just to note: Chronic fatigue can lead to an array of other health issues too)
- Oxidative stress (The presence of inflammation that arises as a result of strenuous activity which can further free-radical production) (Free Radicals – are molecules responsible for aging and tissue damage.)
- Inflammation (NSAID’s aka anti-inflammatory drugs are NOT the answer to this)
- Immune suppression symptoms
Now on top of training who has a life? A job? A family? Social activities? Relationships? YOU – I thought so! Me too! Our bodies are constantly trying to recover from daily stressors as well as the stress exercise places on it. So, if you are running 7 days a week, doing double workouts, or even just increasing your mileage or speed too quickly it could leave you in a place you’d rather not be. Keep in mind both high mileage and recreational runners can over train too.
Signs & Symptoms
- Feeling exhausted
- Mood swings for days; Sudden mood swings
- Irrational behavior
- Decreased appetite
- Trouble sleeping (Insomnia)
- Feeling a loss of enthusiasm for running/working out
- Getting sick frequently
- Constant injury
- Decrease in performances
- Sudden weight loss
- Persistent achiness or pains in muscles and/or joints (beyond the typical delayed onset muscle soreness after a workout, about 72 hours.)
- Altered resting heart rate (Could imply sickness or overtraining – check only in the morning 3 days in a row, immediately from waking.)
*If you have any of these symptoms take a week off from training, and slowly start again the following week. You will not lose any fitness, you may actually start feeling better. If nothing is changing and symptoms get severe see a doctor.
Ways To Avoid Overtraining
- REST DAYS – Add them into your training EVERY week! That means DO NOTHING on that day!
- Start a training log to keep track of all workouts & rest days. Note how you feel daily.
- The 10% Rule – Do not increase your mileage by more than that per week.
- Add in Cross Training (Ie. Cycling & Swimming), Resistance Training, & Balance/Corrective exercises into your training.
- Speed Work – Start slow and go at a comfortably hard pace. It’s not a race. NO workout should EVER be as fast as a race!
- Track Intervals – When I haven’t done track in awhile, or I am just coming back after recouping from a race I like to start with a basic workout of 4 x 400 at a comfy hard pace w/90s rest in between. Depending on what I am training for, if it’s speed I will try to increase that the next time around and leave it at 4 intervals. If it is pace and distance then I will increase my intervals by 2 each workout. I advise not increasing volume and intensity at the same time. Choose which one makes more sense to you in your training.
- Tempos – Same as above start slow and ease into it. Pick a pace that is comfy hard for you and a distance that makes sense for you to start out with. Just coming back, I always start with one-mile tempos and build on that.
- Every 4 -6 weeks implement an EASY training week.
- Get proper nutrition – before, after, & during training. Check out my other blogs for this info. (http://runfitcoaching.com/nutritiontraining/ http://runfitcoaching.com/nutrition-training-part-ii/ http://runfitcoaching.com/nutrition-training-part-iii/
- HYDRATE! Rule of thumb – ½ your body weight in ounces daily.
- SLEEP!! 8+ hours a night!
- Make time for YOU!! (Read a book, take a bath, meditate, do one thing daily to make you calm! And I don’t mean martinis!!)
- Always take an end of season break after running your big race. Generally 3 – 4 weeks off. One week no running at all, then slowly add active recovery runs & light resistance training in as well. You can also just take the entire month off too!
- LISTEN to your body!
Remember you get stronger because you ate, hydrated, slept, and recovered correctly after training. So, implement a recovery plan in your training. Also, keep in mind if you recover better, you will PERFORM BETTER! Furthermore, it is ONLY during recovery that the body can become stronger and be able to attack its next workout efficiently. Also, try to decrease your daily stress levels. Running is a place most people find their serenity, but if you overtrain, it could leave you without it. Two suggestions – Don’t Overtrain & Find additional coping methods in the event it’s taken from you.
Keep running as a life long sport and don’t let it rule you. Live your life happy, healthy, & as peaceful as you can!
***************Natalie Johnston is USATF certified runner coach serving areas PA, NYC, & NJ.*****************