5. Cross-train. Adding a couple of cross-training days into your weekly training is a great way to maintain your conditioning without overworking the same muscles. On cross-training days, do anything aerobic that's not running (i.e., elliptical, row machine, cycling, swimming, circuit resistance training, etc.). These activities will give you a great aerobic workout as well as conditioning other muscle groups helping to increase your overall fitness, while giving your "running muscles" a break.
More: 4 Cross-Training Activities for Runners
6. Sleep. Lack of sleep is a big cause of fatigue which can increase your chances of overtraining. Your body does most of its repair and rebuilding while you sleep. If you're not getting enough sleep, then you're not giving your body time to heal. Sleep requirements can vary from person to person. Teenagers need about 9 hours on average (mine seem to need about 15!). Most adults need seven to 8 hours of sleep a night, although some may need as few as five hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day. Fatigue can result when your normal sleeping hours are shortened for whatever reason--stress of a new job, a new baby, exercising too late at night, or that heartburn you got from the five-meat pizza you ate just before bed. If you're not getting your normal amount of sleep, then you need to back off on your training until your sleep hours are back to normal.
More: Become a Better Runner in Your Sleep
7. Know the signs. An elevated pulse is a good indicator of possible overtraining or even sickness such as a respiratory infection. If your waking resting pulse is elevated more than a few beats, you could have an infection or be suffering from overtraining. In either case, taking a day off may be the best thing. Rest is the best thing to avoid overtraining. If rest doesn't do the trick, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Below are more over-training signs to look out for and respect if they occur.
- persistent achiness, stiffness, or pain in the muscles and/or joints (beyond the typical delayed onset muscle soreness felt after a workout)
- lack of energy
- fatigued and/or achy muscles
- frequent headaches
- feeling lethargic or sluggish
- drop in athletic performance
- not able to complete your normal workout
- depressed, moody, unmotivated
- lack of sleep and/or appetite
- weight loss
- lowered immune system
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