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070: Sneaky Signs of Overtraining

Uncategorized Jan 10, 2019


New year, new you!  It’s time to go all out on training.  You have signed up for a race and it’s approaching rapidly so you need to get your running cranked up.  Enthusiasm is great, but can lead to some major issues involving overtraining. In this episode let’s cover some signs of overtraining, how to avoid it, and how it may sneak up anyway.

Overtraining can pop up whether you are a new or seasoned runner and it’s signs can be subtle at first.  If you are not paying attention, you can find yourself wiped out and burnt out and probably hurt.

Some early signs to looks for include rating heart rate and generally how you feel on a run.  Keep daily track of your resting heart rate and notice if it seems like the number stays elevated for several days.  It will likely pop a bit after a hard workout, little sleep, or an extra drink or two on a night out, but will come back down.  When it does not come back for a few days, that is a sign to pull back.

The most subtle sign is being in touch with your body on a run.  If your legs feel like lead day after day, or the motivation seems to have disappeared, you could be overtrained.  This can also show up as a normal run, that just feels harder than it should. Also, maybe your run feels the same as always for a recovery run, but the pace is much slower than normal.  By tuning into your body, you can spots very early signs of overtraining.

Some less obvious signs are the mental ones.  If you find yourself with a constant short fuse with everyone and everything around you, it’s possible that you spent all of your mental capacity on the run, and have nothing left.  The same thing applies if you feel like you are walking around with a bit of a foggy brain.

The last couple of signs are the fairly obvious and the not so obvious.  First is the hard to deny injuries such as shin splints, runner’s knee, and plantar fasciitis.  Second, is just getting sick. You can blame travel, the cold weather, or visitors, but if you seem to always be going from one sickness to the next, you’re likely taxing your body so much through training, that the immune system cannot fight off any bugs coming your way.  

To avoid overtraining, keep three things in mind.  Listen to your body, rest and recover, understand safe changes in intensity.  Runners naturally tune out their body’s messages during a race to overcome pain and fatigue.  During normal training, tune back in and understand that rest days do not ruin training plans.  

Make sure you are getting plenty of rest through actual sleep.  The general population needs 7-8 hours of sleep to function optimally.  If you are training for a higher mileage race, and cutting down to 6 hours so you can fit in the morning run, you are setting yourself up for a letdown.  Also, make sure that your recovery runs are actually recovery and not some predetermined pace that you feel is required.

The third way to avoid overtraining is to keep track of your intensity and understand that you can increase mileage or speed, but it is a little dangerous to increase both simultaneously.  There is an old adage about increasing mileage no more than 10% per week, but as we cover in the episode, that is more of a nice round number that have been repeated over and over, rather than scientifically backed.  

Finally, we discuss the ways that you can fall into overtraining without realizing it.  You may be maintaining the same level of mileage and speed, but other items in your life can be ramping up the intensity way too much.  We talk about sleep deprivation and other stresses in your life such as work, family, and friendships contributing to fatigue and causing a normal run to become intense.  We also discuss the ideas of fasted workouts, and how proper fuel during and after a run is important to helping your body make adaptations.

We close it out with the lesson of the entire podcast.  How to fit everything in? Sometimes real life takes the priority over your run.  You may need to skip a day. You may need to put strength onto an easy day. It is possible that you should only schedule one speed day into your weekly plan.  When health is a priority and running is a journey, it’s ok when goals are pushed back slightly or adjusted. You are doing the best you can with the hand you’re dealt.  So get out there tomorrow and lace them up, or maybe just take an off day.


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