If you want to get faster as a runner, it might make sense to run more. But like anything else, it is possible to overdo it — and running more than your body can handle can hurt your performance and eventually lead to an injury.
Whether you’ve seen a plateau in your fitness or seem to always be dealing with an ache or pain, keep these six classic warning signs in mind. They are your body’s way of telling you it’s time for a break — or to at least ease up a bit:
When you’re training a lot, being tired might seem like a common side effect. But extreme fatigue accompanied by trouble sleeping at night is a warning your body can’t handle the level of stress it’s under. For most, this means overdoing the caffeine during the day to stay awake, and then having trouble falling and staying asleep at night without constantly waking up.
Increasing your mileage can wear down your body in more ways than one. The immune system is likely to take a hit, making you more susceptible to common illnesses like the flu and colds. This is the body’s way of telling you you’re pushing too hard and a break is needed to physically recover.
While measuring your heart rate variability can be a more scientific way to see you’ve not recovered properly prior to your next workout, it’s also a good idea to test your resting heart rate frequently. If your body is stressed more than it should be, you’ll see an increase in your heart rate from normal levels when you’re sitting around doing nothing.
There are times when it can be hard to tell your body can’t handle the stress of training until you’ve wound up with an injury. That’s why it’s important to also pay attention to your psychological state for clues into your overall health and well-being. If you’re normally calm and easygoing and notice things are irritating you that normally wouldn’t, this can be an early sign of overtraining. Keep tabs on your mood and ask those around you if they’ve noticed changes in your overall demeanor.
Heavy legs that don’t feel good even after a light run or day off are a sign of trouble. Usually this is an indication your muscles are not recovering as quickly as they should, and the more you continue to run in this state, the more rundown you’ll begin to feel. If you haven’t felt 100% in a week or more, this could be you.
Overtraining can affect your physical and your mental well-being. If you love to run but suddenly find it harder and harder to get motivated to get out the door, you probably need some time away. Dreading another run instead of looking forward to your workouts as a way to relieve stress and unwind is not the way it should be.
HOW TO EASE UP
Keep a running journal that tracks mileage and how you feel each day. Record how many hours you sleep, your resting heart rate, injuries, sickness, fatigue and overall mood. If you’ve noticed changes, it’s time to back off.
Make a new schedule that spaces high-intensity or long runs with plenty of rest days and recovery runs in between. Cut back your weekly training miles by about 40% until you start feeling better. For severe cases of overtraining, it might be a good idea to take 2–3 weeks off from running until you’ve physically and mentally recovered.
When you are feeling better, make sure to incorporate block training into your routine. For every three weeks of training, back the mileage off by 30–40% for one week. This helps keep you from overtraining and gives your body a week of recovery each month. Also, look at your diet and make sure you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep each night — both of which are crucial elements to your recovery, injury prevention and overall health.