Over the next 60 days the pelican state has three very popular marathons upcoming: Louisiana, NOLA RnR & our local favorite Zydeco Marathon. If you are running any of them, you’re probably neck deep in training miles right about now. You’re tired, you’re cranky, and your legs might feel like dead weight.
As you close in on taper week, you force yourself out of bed most mornings and put on your training clothes. Mustering up every single ounce of energy you can (possibly fueled by two tall cups of coffee), you head out.
Reprimanding yourself for being so ‘lazy’, you decide you’ll run one extra mile. Surely you must be losing your fitness if you feel this tired, which only means it’s time to train harder, right?
If anything about this situation sounds familiar, you could be headed for misery.
Overtraining is a very real and serious thing and sadly, it’s something that too many athletes suffer from without even realizing it – at least in the beginning stages. If ignored, it can sideline you for weeks due to injury.
Signs of Overtraining
Knowing what to look out for is important in order to recognize when to back off a little. Once overtrained, risk of injury increases due to over exertion and lack of proper form. The signs of overtraining are similar in just about any athletic training are are not exclusive to running.
- Fatigue that never seems to let up
- A decline in performance
- An increase in your morning resting heart rate
- Change in appetite which can mean weight gain or loss that wasn’t expected
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Lack of interest in activities you formerly enjoyed
- Muscle and joint aches that never seem to heal
- Loss of libido levels
- A high frequency of suffering from the cold or flu
Not all athletes will notice all of these symptoms, but if two or three are making themselves present, it may be time to take action. Keep training and you will only get worse.
Avoid Overtraining and Prevent Injury
The number one thing that you can do to avoid this situation is to start taking rest and recovery more seriously. Not only is it critical that you have at least one day off each week for complete recovery, but in addition to that, you should also have one or two lighter workouts scheduled in, giving you a couple easier days throughout the week.
As you take this time off, practice additional recovery strategies such as foam rolling, stretching, massage therapy, or just taking a hot bath with bath salts to help soothe tired, achy muscles. Cryotherapy and cold plunges have also been introduced recently and have been adopted for recovery.
If you ever do start to feel pain, be sure to ice the effected area as quickly as possible after finishing up that training session. This will help ensure that you are reducing any inflammation present, preventing the chances the injury only continues to get worse.
Adequate sleep is also essential for recovery, 7-8 hours of sleep each night is recommended. Not only will this help the body make its full recovery, but it’ll also help ensure that you are maximally coordinated during each session. Those who are fatigued due to lack of sleep are more likely to get sloppy with their form, which can result in injury.
It’s better to stop and let the body rest so that you can pick back up, using proper form as you carry on.
If you don’t want to be sidelined by an injury – and let’s face it, who does – it’s time to get serious about monitoring for overtraining and watching your recovery.
Sometimes pushing hard is not a good thing and can get you into a lot of trouble. Listen to your body and respect when it’s asking for rest. There are some days it’s better to skip that session and give your body some R&R.