It is fantastic to see people getting fit and healthy. Many have found time to run more and train harder, and others have taken up running for the first time. But are you overtraining? Running is a great form of exercise that we can all do, but it’s important to find the right balance, and not over do it as overtraining can lead to fatigue and injury. Throughout this blog I will discuss how you can spot the signs that you are overtraining, and steps you should take to avoid injury and carry on running healthy.
How do you know if you are overtraining?
First of all let’s all remember that not one size fits all, we are all different and what we can achieve depends on our starting point. Running every day for example may be a step too far for a new runner, but not for someone who has been running for many years. It also depends on your intensity, as running at a relatively easy pace won’t have the same impact as running at max effort. It is very easy to get carried away so it is really important that you get in tune with your body and understand when you are over doing it.
Do you feel tired?
Fatigue is a sign of overtraining. It is natural to have tired legs after a run, and for you to be tired, but is it enduring? If your muscles are aching and you are not recovering, then it is time to rest. You will feel much better and your running will be improved if you aren’t going into it tired.
Are you having bad runs?
Not every run will be a good run, and no matter how well things are going it is possible to have a bad run. But if you continue to have bad runs time after time then this is a sign you are overdoing it. If you find that it is hard to pick up the pace and you are slowing down on your runs then think about having some rest, or taking it more gently. Giving your body a chance to recover is all part of the plan and the best way to improve.
Are you picking up niggles?
It is really difficult to know the difference between aches because you are tired, and an injury. So it is important to listen to your body. Being tired is fine, my body aches a lot of the time and this is part of the process of recovery. Sometimes my joints and muscles hurt, and rest allows it to heal and then I carry on. But sometimes these niggles are something more, sometimes these become injuries and can sideline you for protracted periods of time, every runners worst nightmare.
When you overtrain you risk picking up injuries. This can be from overuse, or from poor form from tiredness. Understand what your body is capable of and understand the difference between tiredness and injury. Don’t run through injury.
How to avoid injury
First of all, don’t run through the beginning stages of injury, as it can make it much worse. My 10k PB came when I had a knee injury, I felt like I could have ran faster, but it was painful. Not pushing my limits sort of pain, but a pain I should have eased back from. I struggled with knee injuries for a while after this and learnt the hard way.
Increase your pace and distance gradually. As I have said previously, this will differ depending in your experience, but especially when starting out you should increase your miles gradually each week, even if you feel like you can do more. Allow your body to adapt. Think of it like an elastic band, and each week you stretch it a little bit more and you can keep adding the miles and it will feel fine. If you double the distance you are at risk of injury.
Don’t push intensity and distance at same time. To improve performance you need to increase speed and distance, and get used to both. However in training you don’t need to do both at the same time, so work out what your session is for. If you are doing a long slow run, make sure you take it steady your aim is to cover the distance. Then keep your speed sessions intense, push to your limits, but keep it short.
Make sure you rest. If you look at any training plan you will see rest days, easy days, this is not a coincidence. Rest is important and even if you want to run every day for a streak you can take it easy and give your body a chance to recover.
If you want to improve your running and avoid injury then spend some time on strength and conditioning. The stronger your body, the better you will run, and the more control you will have over your form. Stretching is part of this package, and something I personally don’t do enough of, but completely appreciate the benefits.
How to recover from injury
Rest. If you are injured, the best thing you can do is rest. Put your feet up, ice and compression. Go and see a Doctor or physio and get professional support to help get you back in your feet. And when you do get back running, take.it gradually again and build up your strength.
Whilst you are injured concentrate on strength and conditioning. A physio will give you exercises to help you, which often are to improve stabilising muscles. Often injuries will come from muscle imbalances, for example my knee injury was because of weak glutes. Tight hamstrings are often a cause, so strength, conditioning and stretching are great ways to help recover from injury.
I hope this blog has been helpful. If you are training more at the moment, keep up the good work. But ask yourself whether you are overtraining, take some time to rest and recover, and keep your body strong.
I hope to see you out on some races soon. Until then, let’s get our bodies ready.
10 thoughts on “Are you overtraining?”
Just a quick Q regarding the article, how long will it take to get back from overtraining? And I’m not sure if you mentioned but is it just the training load (i.e. mileage) that I should be monitoring?
Hi this is such an open question, with no set answer I’m afraid. The load, intensity and frequency are all factors and there is no set answer on how long it will take to recover. This depends on whether you are injured, and depends on how long your body takes to recover. Listen to your body, and if injured, listened to your doctor
Another great and useful post. I’m just running at the moment, for my mental health and to keep moving, emphasising trees and nature in what I’m doing. I have been going loads faster than I normally do but I think that’s to get back home asap. I went with a friend (as permitted) yesterday and we had a good old amble on a trail, and a chat, and my times were slower than ever by my goodness, it was worth it!
The slow ones with friends are always worth it
Great read and very insightful, I’ve always been invested in the idea of under recovery being the main cause for fatigue/injury rather than overtraining. Be good to get your thoughts on this!
Thats a great way of looking at it, and the amount of training you do is very much individual, so we could each do 100 miles and for one that would be significantly overtraining and another it is just normal.
The amount of recovery is a great way of doing it, if we can work out how much recovery we need and get it right then we would a good step forward to not over training
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I suppose it depends on the conditioning of each individual and their adaptability to new training stimulus. I can train with weights 6 times a week and feel fine but if you asked me to run 10k I’d be asleep for 3 days!
Perhaps it’s smart to include progressive overload principles alongside a well thought out recovery programme too.
Yes, good point, and you would have to train your body to be used to the running, but with your conditioning from weights you will have a hood baseline