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Five Signs of Runner Overtraining

February 19th, 2013

Overtraining can lead to injury, burnout and impaired performance, so avoiding it is especially crucial for competitive runners with serious goals.  Here are five signs of overtraining:

1. Your body hurts.

Every athlete gets sore from time to time, especially if you’re just starting a new training routine. What we’re talking about are those nagging aches and pains that started a week (or more) ago, and just won’t go away. This is your body’s way of letting you know it’s time for some rest. Without rest, it’s easy for those minor aches and pains to develop into more serious injuries that could sideline you from your training.

2. You’re unmotivated to workout.

We’ve all had a tough time stepping that first foot out the door some days, but if you feel unmotivated before every workout, it’s time to ease up. Mental burnout is a good sign that physical burnout is on the horizon. Being able to push through a workout when you’re less than motivated is part of being a competitor, but know your limits. If you find you’re dragging yourself through every workout, think twice before you lace up your trainers today.

3. You get sick frequently.

Frequent upper respiratory infections and colds are a telltale sign of overtraining. Exercising puts stress on your immune system, which is then forced to adapt. If you put too much stress on your body without plenty of recovery time, however, it can backfire. To much stress results in a weakened immune system, which leaves you open to a wide variety of illnesses. Take a break, drink plenty of fluids and make sure to sleep enough.

4. You’re always tired and cranky.

Your body will tell you how much training is just right for you. You’ll feel energized, see performance improvements and enjoy a positive vibe. Conversely, if you’re always irritable, cranky and negative for no particular reason, it’s a pretty good sign that you’re overtrained. For the sake of your mental health (and for the benefit of those around you), take a short break to rest and engage in some non-running activities like reading a good book or cooking a tasty dinner.

5. You can’t sleep.

Difficulty falling asleep and fitful sleep are both signs of overtraining. Running too close to bedtime can cause you to feel hyper and restless when your head hits the pillow (even if you feel sleepy at the same time). If you run in the evening, make sure your workout is completely finished at least three hours prior to your bedtime. Losing sleep because of workouts can also lead to greater degrees of overtraining, because your muscles do not have adequate time to recover from your training session.

If you feel like you might be overtraining, check out our Learning Center for tips on how to stop overtraining before you suffer a more serious injury.

Alice Run Training , , , ,

  • http://Minneapolisrunning.com Nathan

    How can you tell the normal aches and pains from just being sore – the kind that come from running high mileage?

  • Matt

    Great question. There’s no easy answer and you should definitely check with a physical therapist or doctor if you’re having long-term pain. For us, we tend to ease back if we’re still feeling significant pain/discomfort several miles into a run, or if the pain is localized (for instance, in a joint or one muscle), particularly in the lower legs. The key is to know your body well enough to know what pains are OK to run through and which pains could be a sign of injury.