Your body needs proper rest during a training cycle, so try to avoid doing too much.
One of the negative effects of competitive running is dealing with the effects of overtraining. Doing too much with not enough rest and recovery can be disastrous. Overtraining can lead to burnout and, even worse, injury.
So what are some of your body’s warning signs that you should pay attention to? And, more importantly, what can you do about overtraining when you realize that you’ve been pushing yourself too hard? Here are three symptoms and what you can do to address them.
Symptom 1: You feel burned out even after your easy training days. You don’t have that same enthusiasm you had at the beginning of your training plan. The next week’s series of workouts seem daunting and you just don’t feel like running hard anymore. Also, you just feel tired all the time.
Symptom 2: Your resting heart rate is elevated. According to Coach Greg McMillan, if it’s five beats per minute more than usual, then there’s a good chance the body isn’t fully recovered.
Symptom 3: You are having a hard time sleeping.
What Causes These Symptoms
Simply put, the body is being asked to do too much, too soon and is letting you know that. Good training means finding the right balance between stress and rest.
“Overtraining is usually more accurately called under-recovery as the body just needs more time to be ready,” McMillan said. “Motivation and enthusiasm decreases because the brain is telling us that we aren’t ready yet for another hard workout or big training week.”
Physically, the body reacts to this excessive stress in many ways.
“The immune system is usually compromised and there are hormonal changes which can impact on anxiety, depression and self-confidence,” said Alan Storey, one of Great Britain’s top distance coaches.
RELATED: 4 Ways To Avoid Overtraining
What You Can Do
If these symptoms are resonating with you, and you think you’re dealing with overtraining then try experimenting with the following remedies:
Add flexibility to your training week. McMillan suggests that runners add “wiggle room” into their weekly schedule. For example, build some flexibility into your plan on your hard workout days like adding variability in reps or splits that you need to hit so that you don’t feel obligated to complete exact workouts if you aren’t up to it.
“Most working runners push the edge on recovery anyway, so reducing training load slightly so that you are more optimal instead of maximal on your work load is a good start,” McMillan said.
Add “down weeks” to your calendar. Make every third week one that is significantly reduced in terms of volume and intensity so that the body can “catch up” from being under-recovered.
Get to know your body. And if you find yourself in a state of overtraining, remember how it feels. After a hard week of training, take a mental inventory on one of your recovery days. Do you still feel like running hard? How is your enthusiasm? Does the next round of workouts seem daunting?
Plan ahead for life stress. Sometimes overtraining can be exacerbated by non-running stresses. McMillan said if you’re an accountant, for example, don’t plan your biggest training weeks during tax season. The same applies for family commitments. Integrate your training plan with your non-running calendar.
Make good use out of your training log. Don’t just record what you did on a specific day and how fast you did it. Add a line in your log where you record your overall mood and look for trends.
Another way to use your log is to record your recovery cycles after workouts and training volumes.
“This may show you that for a particular type of workout, you need more recovery,” McMillan said.
Another thing to add to your training log is what you are eating and how well you are doing at refueling and rehydrating after a hard workout. Inadequate nutrition and hydration can exacerbate overtraining.
“When in a hole, stop digging,” Storey said. “Look back at all of the information available and try to work out what went wrong and why.”
RELATED: How Much Running Is Too Much?
Take a short break from running. It’s OK not to run for seven days. If you’ve overtrained, you may just need a mental and physical break from the sport. During that rest week, focus on the following areas: getting a good night’s sleep, improving your nutrition, staying hydrated and eating right. Also plan something fun that can take your mind off your running problems and rebuild your motivation.
A short break can also just be 3-4 days of no running. The days that you decide to run on this “off week” should be fun, aerobic runs, in a scenic locale or with a group of friends.