Overtraining: Why It Happens, How To Spot It & How To Dig Yourself Out

  • By Jeff Gaudette
  • Published Jan. 22, 2014
  • Updated Jan. 22, 2014 at 8:21 AM UTC

More than half of all runners will overdo it at least once in their running career.

Overtraining. It’s a word that strikes fear into the hearts of runners everywhere. Researchers estimate that 61% of all serious runners will go through a period of overtraining at least once in their running career. That’s not an encouraging statistic when you’re pushing the limits to reach your goals.

What makes overtraining scary is that runners have very few tangible ways to identify and measure whether they are overtraining. Overtraining isn’t so black & white like a stress fracture or so painfully obvious as when you run out of energy during a long run–there is no pain associated with overtraining and there are few clear signs. Researchers can measure advanced physiological factors such as catecholamine excretion and neuromuscular patterns to determine if a runner is overtraining, but us runners on the road have little conclusive evidence to determine if we’re just tired from training or going over the edge. While the signs and symptoms of overtraining aren’t overt, it is possible to identify which activities present the greatest danger to overtraining, recognize subtle signs that suggest you’re approaching the precipice, and discuss how to come back if you believe you are overtrained.

MORE: How To Break Out Of Your Running Rut

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Jeff Gaudette

Jeff Gaudette

Jeff has been running for 13 years, at all levels of the sport. He was a two time Division-I All-American in Cross Country while at Brown University and competed professionally for 4 years after college for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. Jeff's writing has been featured in Running Times magazine, Endurance Magazine, as well as numerous local magazine fitness columns.

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