Some days, there’s absolutely nothing better than go for a run. The release of endorphins, that whole kicking-stress-to-the-curb feeling, and of course — picking up the pace. It’s no wonder so many runners, veterans and newbies alike, find themselves doing it … a lot.
There’s one catch: Too many miles could lead to overtraining.
Here, experts provide the lowdown on classic signs you’re lacing up a bit too much.
YOU’RE CONSTANTLY SICK
If you feel like you’ve got a cold you just can’t kick, this could be an indicator you need to ease off the gas pedal when it comes to your workouts according to Melissa Morris, ACSM-certified exercise physiologist and ISSN-certified sports nutritionist. “Sometimes, illnesses just don’t seem to go away, like an upper respiratory infection or a sore throat,” she says. “That’s because overtraining can dampen your immune system, making it harder for your body to fight off infections and illness.”
SORENESS IS LINGERING
If you’ve got pain or soreness from a workout that doesn’t go away within 24–48 hours, it could be a red flag. “General muscle soreness and even aching knees or ankles can be common, especially after a longer training run,” says physical therapist Nina Geromel, DPT. “In these cases, an active rest day can be helpful to allow the body to heal, yet stay moving. Active rest should be low intensity and include movements that are different from running.” Some great options? Yoga, a walk around the neighborhood or a low-intensity bike ride.
YOU CAN’T STAY ASLEEP
A lot of things can impact your sleep quality, from your daily interactions to how stressed you are at the office. Add to the list: Too much running. Disrupted sleep patterns are a common symptom of overtraining, and can be extremely frustrating to deal with according to Thomas Watson, UESCA-certified running coach, ultrarunner and founder of Marathon Handbook. “It can take some time to ‘reset’ if you find yourself with disrupted sleep,” he says. “Scale back your run training, if not completely stop it. Replace your run training with light workouts which require little effort or willpower.”
Watson suggests adding in different activities like a game of tennis, swimming and (bold suggestion here) focusing on relaxing. He also says to only re-introduce your run workouts when your sleep is back to a good, healthy pattern.
YOU’RE EXPERIENCING DECREASED PERFORMANCE
We all have training days or exercise sessions that may be lacking, but when you have multiple sessions where this is happening, you may need to chill out, says Morris. “For a runner, this may mean decreased running speeds, not breaking from running altogether, on multiple training days.”
YOU SUDDENLY LACK MOTIVATION
Pro or beginner, it’s pretty typical for an athlete to have some big goals. If you suddenly lose excitement over your hopes, it may be time to examine just how many miles you’re logging regularly. “There may be a life-circumstance changes — like a lack of support from a spouse or shift in work — but you may just be tired,” says Erika Lee, a performance enhancement and corrective exercise specialist.
She suggests asking yourself important questions like “why are you training in the first place?” and “why is this a priority?” Then, think about modifying the training program. “I will often substitute one running day with one ‘fun and active’ day, such as hiking, rock climbing, kayaking or surfing. Sometimes a change of scenery is all that’s needed.”
YOU’RE GETTING INJURED
Running puts three times your bodyweight on your feet. When running higher mileage and on concrete, this load may cause many problems, according to Dr. Nelya Lobkova, a podiatrist and founder of Step Up Footcare. “Stress fractures, reactions and shin splints occur from repetitive stress on the weight-bearing bones, including the heel bone, metatarsal bones and shin bone,” she says. “When pain in these areas occurs, it is important to remove the stress, so take a break from running, and try cross-training, such as swimming or biking.”