Overtraining for runners can have many physical and mental side effects. With the year 2020 affecting our work, lifestyle and mental health, for many runners it increased their training and running challenges. For many runners, to run, especially outdoors, is also a great mental therapy. So in 2020, many of us needed extra therapy, which could cause overtraining. Another overtraining syndrome is for some runners trying to stay super fit and training with more stress due to life stress, or busy work and family schedule, some runners end up running only short and fast interval sessions and speedwork. To prevent overtraining, we also have to focus on weekly low intensity aerobic slower runs.
What is Overtraining
Overtraining can be defined as physical stress caused by high training sessions, combined with inadequate recovery. Overtraining can happen at any stage of our running life. It can affect new runners, experienced runners and even elite runners. Top elite runners can confirm that to move from amateur to elite level is not about training super harder and doing much more intense training sessions. Most elite runners are full time runners with no other work, so they have time to add more rest time and recover between training sessions. Those recovery sessions will help avoid overtraining.
The common training sessions for the top East Africa marathon elite runners include sleeping and resting for a few hours each day between their running sessions. As runners with a normal life schedule, we don’t have time to include daily afternoon naps or recovery time during the day, that’s why we need to avoid too much intense or overtraining.
Symptoms of Overtraining
1. Tiredness- Feeling sluggish and fatigued
2. Increase of Resting Heart Rate- 3-5 beats higher than usual
3. Lack of Interest in Training- Not as motivated to go for a run
4. Bad Sleeping Pattern- It makes it harder to fall asleep and sleep well
5. Constant Aches and Pain- Regular muscle soreness and joint pain
6. Affects Recovery Time- The body takes much longer to recover
7. Harder to Focus and Concentrate- Overtraining affects our brain health
8. More cold symptoms- The body being overtired can have lower levels of fighting cough, cold and diseases.
Causes of Overtraining and How to Avoid
1. Starting to Run too Much too Early- Increasing the volume of running distance and high-intensity sessions too early can cause overtraining. The goal is not to increase the distance and intensity more than 10% per week to allow the body to adapt to the higher training volume.
2. Not Taking a Rest Day- Many runners don’t take a rest day, but to push the body constantly will not help the body to perform better. The key to increase the fitness level is to allow the body to recover, recuperate and absorb the extra training load. We need to take at least 1 recovery day/week.
3. Too Many Races- As runners we tend to get addicted to races, as there are huge social benefits with the enjoyable race atmosphere, and positive environment. Right now with all the Virtual Races, it can cause some overtraining. To push our body for races week after week, our body will burnout physically and mentally.
4. Not Enough Sleep- We need to get 7-8 hours of sleep every night, especially for long-distance runners. If we are training more distance or intensity than our normal training schedule, we need to add an extra 30 mins to 1 hour of sleep.
5. Not Taking 2 Days of Recovery After a Long-Distance or Intense Session- A long-distance run, or intense training session can be very good to build up our fitness and endurance level. But with the higher stress on our body we need to take 2 days of recovery to allow the body to heal, recover and refuel.
6. Not Eating Enough Post-Run- According to sport science research, we need to refuel our body 30-60 mins after a training session. Even a small healthy snack like banana, nut or nut butter, or smoothie can help to refuel are depleted glycogen stores.
7. Not Enough Hydration- To support our running sessions, we need to make sure we hydrate enough every day, pre-run, during the run and post-run, and throughout the day. Drinking 3L of water/day is very important and to consume electrolytes during a run longer than 60-90 mins depending on the heat or humidity, is essential.
8. Constantly Pushing- Many runners are very competitive and they constantly push themselves in every run. The recommendation for great training in to include some slower runs to train our body properly.
How to Help Recover and Avoid Overtraining
1. Take a Hot Bath- It will help relax the muscles and rest the body and mind. To add some Epson salts will helps with recovery.
2. Perform Yoga- To perform some nice yoga sessions with good stretches and breathing techniques will help recover and release stress.
3. Regular Stretching- To perform daily stretches and focusing on our major muscle groups- hip flexors, quads, hamstrings, calves, lower back will prevent injuries and provide good recovery.
4. Walk in Nature- To add nice walks to our training schedule, will help to reduce stress and still strengthen our muscles.
5. Swim or Bike Ride- Switching some running sessions to a swim or bike ride is a great cross-training option. It will still provide some good aerobic workout but with less pressure on the feet, ankles, and knees joints.
6. Reduce Intensity or Running Distance- Reducing the intensity or distance and focusing on just enjoying a nice lovely run will give the body some recovery. Even not wearing our GPS watch will provide a great sense of liberation and will help us focus on nature and just enjoy a nice run.
We need to listen to our body, to still appreciate the joy of running, remaining injury-free and staying fit and healthy.
Don’t Overtrain, Stay Fit, Run Strong and Enjoy to Keep Running!