Signs and Symptoms of Overtraining (and How to Avoid It)

tired runner

With the hope of in-person races possibly being held this summer and fall, you’ve probably begun to ramp up your training. A good training plan should set you up for success in reaching the finish line of your goal race. It should have a mix of easy and hard days. It should be a gradual progression of mileage and intensity. Even so, you still may find yourself feeling burnt out and overly fatigued at some point along the way.

Running is definitely hard work. You are constantly breaking down and building up new muscle fibers with every run. You are putting stress on your body. Of course, you are going to feel tired and sore, but there’s a fine line between recognizing the difference between general soreness and fatigue and overtraining.

If you find yourself feeling like you are working at a consistently hard effort, even on easy runs, you may be overtraining.

Here are 12 warning signs from your body that this may be the case:

  • Feeling exhausted, even after getting enough sleep
  • Heavy legs before, during and after runs
  • Emotional highs and lows
  • Appetite changes
  • Consistently higher resting heart rates
  • Lack of motivation for usual workouts
  • Easy workouts consistently feel harder than usual
  • Persistent achy-ness, stiffness or pain in the muscles and/or joints (beyond the typical delayed onset muscle              soreness felt after a workout)
  • Frequent headaches
  • Drop in athletic performance
  • Not able to complete your normal workout
  • Lowered immune system

What can you do to ensure you don’t fall into the overtraining trap?

  • Follow a 10- to 20-percent increase in training volume over a three- to four-week period 
  • Do one high intensity training session per week
  • Don’t do back-to-back challenging workouts
  • Make rest and recovery days/weeks a priority
  • Control your personal stress
  • Make sleep a big priority
  • Stay hydrated
  • Make good nutritional choices before, during or immediately after workouts
  • Don’t constantly be training for events; be sure to schedule an offseason at least once a year

Overtraining can be controlled by recognizing the early symptoms. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, take some extra rest days. Missing a few days of workouts won’t kill your fitness levels, but it will prevent you from sliding into even deeper trouble. 

If after a few extra rest days you still feel any of the signs of overtraining, consult an expert like a physician, coach or physical therapist for further advice.

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