Overtraining occurs when the load or intensity of running surpasses your body’s ability to recover. You may notice general fatigue, poor workout or race results, changes in appetite, getting more colds than usual, or feeling crabby and irritable. But don’t worry! Overtraining can be turned around with a reset and being more cautious in the future. So what does that caution look like?
Keep track of your weekly mileage.
Some weeks can get away from you. The weather is great, workouts are rolling, friends invite you to add on to your already-long run, and then later, you’re crashing. Have a plan for your training each week and stick to it so you don’t add on mileage or intensity in an unstructured way. By keeping a detailed running log you can easily glance at the weeks behind you and see if you’re in need of some rest days.
Note how your body is reacting.
Many runners note how they’re feeling after each easy run or workout so that if a negative trend arises, they can adjust. This is why if you have a coach, they’ll be checking in to see how you feel after a given workout. They’re ready to back off and adjust, but only if you’re honest.
Consider overall life stress.
If you have a busy work month, you’re in the midst of finals, or your family situation has been put under strain, your body will react and produce stress hormones. While running can be a great place to take out frustrations and “get away” from it all, it also produces a natural physical stress hormone and therefore will induce a cumulative effect. This is when sicknesses, sluggish legs, and disrupted sleep creep in, and further set you back.
Adjust as needed.
If you know something big is coming up, back off the running for a bit. Schedule a down week, extra days off, or a yoga or pool day to stop a cycle of physical and emotional stress accumulating before it starts.
Stay up on healthy habits.
Nutrition, sleep, hydration, and recovery methods such as massage, stretching, and cross-training are crucial parts of any training plan. It’s easy to forgo these when you’re training for a big race and want to get in the most you can. If waking up at 5 A.M. to get in your long run means you’re only getting 6 hours of sleep, it may be worth revising that decision.
Ask for bloodwork.
If you’re someone who likes having hard data, you can inquire about certain biomarkers that provide clues to overtraining during your physician visits. By getting this information when you’re healthy, you’ll be able to compare it to times when you’re not doing as well.
By being smart and making intentional training decisions, you can avoid overtraining and set yourself up for success!