The Top Ten Signs of Overtraining

March 18th, 2010

By Rick Morris

Running is a great sport. We run because we love to. We like to run long and we like to run fast. Some of us are addicted to running. We can’t get enough of it. We are like running junkies. If we don’t get our daily fix of running we are in a really bad mood. That is not usually a bad thing. Running is great for our health and fitness. But too much can cause problems. If we run too much or train too hard without sufficient rest we can suffer from overtraining syndrome (OTS). Overtraining syndrome is systematic fatigue and inflammation that is characterized by a number of symptoms. If you notice the following symptoms it is time to back off on your training. If you ignore early overtraining syndrome and it becomes a severe case it could take you months to recover.

Decreased Physical Performance

This is probably the first sign of overtraining that you will notice. Many runners are tightly tuned into their training and racing performance levels and are quick to notice any drops in performance. This is another great reason to keep a training log. If you notice unexplained performance drops it may be time to take some needed rest.

Heavy Legs

This one has a name – heavy leg syndrome. This condition is characterized by slugging, heavy legs and muscle soreness. It is not unusual for your legs to feel fatigued the day after a hard run or to be stiff when you first start running. If the sluggishness does not go away after 24 hours of rest you may be in the early stages of heavy leg syndrome. If muscle soreness or heaviness persists during your entire run or for more than 48 hours it is a sign that you need additional rest to ward off OTS.

Increased Resting Heart Rate

If your heart rate is higher than normal in the morning or you feel like your heart is pounding when you get out of bed, it is a sure sign of overtraining.

Increased Susceptibility to Illness

One of the reasons that running and exercise is so good for you is that it strengthens your body’s immune system. Overtraining has the opposite effect. It will depress your immune system. That is why marathon runners often become ill towards the end of their training. The high mileage they are running makes them more likely to suffer from overtraining. If you are getting sick more often your immune system may be taking a hit from overtraining.

Chronic Muscle Soreness or Fatigue

If your muscles do not get adequate rest they can become chronically sore and fatigued. This is your body trying to signal you to back off. Listen to your body and get some rest.

Slower Recovery

One of best indicators of increased fitness is a decrease in the time you need to recover during interval training. Recovery time is also a good indicator of overtraining. If you find you need more time to recover between hard repeats at the track you are probably becoming overtrained.

Increased Perceived Exertion

When you body is in top condition you will feel like you are floating easily and effortlessly, even during hard track repeats. When you are overtrained, even an easy run can seem difficult. If your training runs are feeling harder, it is time to go easier and take some rest.

Loss of Enthusiasm for Running

You know running should always be fun. You wouldn’t be doing it if you didn’t love it. There will always be those days when you aren’t especially motivated to do your training run, but if you go through a long stretch where you dread running you are definitely overtrained. This is your brain trying to tell you to stop running. It takes away the joy of running in an attempt to make you rest. It is time to pay attention and rest until your motivation and joy of running comes back.

Change in Sleeping Pattern

If you find you are having problems falling asleep at night you may have a touch of overtraining syndrome. Your body and mind are in overdrive because of the overtraining and your find it hard to relax. Take some time off and let your body slow down.

Loss of Appetite

One of the physiological aspects of overtraining is an increase of the production of the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine. Among other things those hormones tend to lower your appetite. Runners love to eat – so if your appetite is on vacation you should follow suit until you feel like eating again.


Winter Training: Faster and Safer Indoors?

March 8th, 2010

PAUL THOMPSON, a fast marathon runner and cardiologist at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, finally broke down this year and bought a treadmill. At age 62, he had had it with running on icy mornings when temperatures were in the single digits.

Filip Kwiatkowski for The New York Times


But Dr. Thompson is training for the Boston Marathon, which he ran last year in just 3 hours and 26 minutes. Will it help, or hurt, to do some of his runs on a treadmill?

In North Carolina, Michael Berry, a competitive cyclist and exercise physiologist at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., finds himself reluctantly driven inside by the cold weather, consigned to ride his road bike on a device that turns it into an indoor stationary machine. Helpful for training or not?

And at Princeton University, the women’s crew team was supposed to go out on the water in the beginning of February. But the lake where they practice has been frozen, forcing them to do all their training indoors on ergometers, stationary machines that simulate rowing. Same question: Does that help or hurt?

The sad answer, exercise researchers say, is that you really cannot get the same training effect with indoor substitutes. That’s not to say that indoor training is useless, but rather that it has real limitations, with differences that sometimes are subtle, but significant.

“I think most athletes know that,” said Peter R. Cavanagh, an exercise researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle. “That’s why they are out there in all seasons.”

The most obvious difference with indoor exercise is a lack of wind resistance, Dr. Cavanagh said.

“The important variable here is speed relative to the air,” he said. For example, if you are running at 8 miles per hour into a 10-m.p.h. headwind, your speed relative to the air is 18 m.p.h. Dr. Cavanagh explained in an e-mail message: “Work done against air resistance can be extremely costly because the ‘drag force’ (force caused by air resistance) is proportional to the square of speed and the power required to overcome drag force is proportional to the cube of speed.”

One recent study, in fact, found that people can run 11.5 percent faster on treadmills than outdoors.

Many runners, including Dr. Thompson, set their treadmills at a 1 percent incline to make up for the lack of wind resistance. But that is not a complete solution because there are other aspects of outdoor running that a treadmill can’t mimic. For instance, the treadmill surface is just too smooth.

“If you run all the time on a smooth surface you are not training all muscles in your legs and feet that you need to run on the road,” Dr. Cavanagh said. “If you are going to race under certain conditions, you might as well train there.”

Then there are the cycling equivalents of treadmills — home trainers, which are devices that support a road bike and let you ride it indoors. Serious cyclists use home trainers instead of stationary bikes. Gym bikes do not allow for the kind of precise adjustments of seat height and distance from handlebars, for example, that cyclists need to simulate riding on the road.

With a trainer, you can ride your own bike and use its gears. And you can use your own pedals and shoes that clip into them.

Anything wrong with that?

Not really, said Dr. Massimo Testa, a sports and exercise physician who coaches elite cyclists at the Orthopedic Specialty Hospital in Salt Lake City.

In places like Salt Lake City, he said, cyclists pretty much have to spend some time training indoors in winter. The cyclists he works with use watt meters, which measure power output, to try to make their indoor workouts at least equivalent in terms of exertion to outdoor ones. But it is hard for cyclists to spend the same number of hours on a home trainer as they do riding outdoors, Dr. Testa said. So indoor training leaves many of them unprepared for rides that are hours long.

And, Dr. Cavanagh said, there are those subtle differences.

“There’s balancing, steering — you are training a lot of muscles, using a lot of muscle coordination when you ride outside that you don’t need when you are on a trainer,” Dr. Cavanagh said.

Rob Coppolillo, a 40-year-old former competitive cyclist, underscored the point. You can get a good workout on a trainer, he said, but “I think it would be a stretch, though, to say indoor training would ever supplant training on the road.” Even in Boulder, Colo., where Mr. Coppolillo lives, he and his friends train outside 95 percent of the time.

And in rowing, the situation is similar to biking. Yes, ergometers can provide workouts so hard that athletes are pushed to the absolute limits of their endurance.

Helen Betancourt, a former elite rower and a coach for Princeton University’s women’s team, described the feeling this way, “You taste blood in the back of your mouth, but it’s awesome.”

In the winter, when competitive rowers cannot train outdoors, they use ergometers and work on technique. But it always is different from rowing in water. In the water you have an oar in your hand and the boat is unstable. There are those subtle neuromuscular training effects that the ergometer does not simulate.

“Rowing on the erg is a whole lot easier than rowing in the water,” said Ms. Betancourt, who is 34. “You can get away with a lot more improper skills on the erg. On the water, if your technique is off, you will not be able to generate the same power output.”

Still, athletes and exercise researchers say, indoor substitutes like ergometers, trainers and treadmills have their appeal.

There are some who really like to exercise on the indoor machines. Dr. Cavanagh, for one, says that although he also runs outdoors, he prefers running on a treadmill.

“I love the predictability of it,” he said. “I like to see a calibrated speed, and I like to increase my speed every 5 to 10 minutes.”

And since Dr. Thompson bought his treadmill, he has discovered that he likes its smooth surface for doing interval training. “It feels like a track,” he said.

Other athletes say that there comes a point when an indoor alternative is better than a workout in cold, icy weather. That’s what drove Brian Sell to buy a treadmill.

Mr. Sell, an elite marathoner who ran in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, trains in Rochester, Mich. He bought a treadmill four years ago, after he had fallen a few times on icy roads, injuring himself so badly he could not train at all while he healed.

“I probably fall at least once a year here in Michigan,” he said. “My injuries ranged from a bruised hip to a pulled groin. That time it took three weeks to get back. I said, ‘If I was doing this on the treadmill, I wouldn’t have missed three weeks of training.’ ”

Mr. Sell continued, “If it’s really icy out or if it’s negative 10 degrees and you are doing an easy six-miler, it probably makes a lot more sense to do it on a treadmill than to risk hurting anything.”

Dr. Berry tries his best to avoid riding indoors — he goes outside to train if it’s dry and the temperature is 20 degrees or higher. But, he said, he has reluctantly been driven indoors by the brutal weather this winter.

Yes, I told him, I know the feeling. That night, in fact, my husband and I were planning to meet in our garage after work for an hourlong workout on our trainers.

“And they say romance is dead,” Dr. Berry replied.

New York Times, March 3, 2010

CCRR Time Trial

March 6th, 2010

CCRR Time Trial, March 6

08:30 Saturday March 6, Maritime Forestry Centre

Don't miss the first annual CCRR  TIme Trial

The weather forecast is fantastic! 

The route is identical to the Not the Honolulu Marathon. 

Download this race prediction sheet.  Use it after the time trial to predict your race time in May.  Note that first time marathoners and half marathoners typically add about a minute per mile to this race predictor to allow for the experience factor.   http://www.furman.edu/first/2007%20Race%20Prediction%20Table.pdf

Safety Check:

  • Heads up and single file when traffic approaches from either direction. 
  • Observe the crossing lights at the corner of Alison Boulevard.  It's the only light.
  • Don't forget, look both ways before you cross the street at the turnaround point!

Gear check:

  • Bright clothes
  • Reflective vest recommended
  • Sunscreen
  • Water
  • Gel or other food

See you there.

Physically active with a sedentary lifestyle: Are you at risk?

March 2nd, 2010

As most individuals recognize, physical inactivity has been shown to increase the number of deaths from all-causes, as well as from heart disease and cancer. But what about individuals who meet the physical activity recommendations but spend most of the day sitting?  Does all that sitting have a negative impact on health?

A study performed by Dr. Katzmarzyk1 and his associates (2009) examined the effects of prolonged sitting on all-cause and cardiovascular death rates in individuals who exercised and those who did not.  The researchers collected information about daily activities including time spent sitting in over 17,000 individuals.  They followed the subjects for an average of 12 years measuring the number of deaths and the cause.

Not surprising, researchers reported the highest death rates in persons who spent most of the day sitting.  However, all-cause and heart disease death rates were also higher in persons who spent more time sitting even if they met the recommended physical activity requirements.  In fact, death rates were similar in exercisers and nonexercisers who spent most of their day sitting.  

Researchers are studying the effects of excessive sitting on the body.  Some of the negative effects include Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity and cardiovascular disease.  Scientists believe that an active lifestyle may provide different health benefits than occur with exercise alone, providing further protection against heart disease.    

This research highlights the need to reduce sedentary behaviors by spending more time standing, walking, and climbing the stairs.  Low intensity activities like cleaning, ironing, walking the dog and yard work are excellent ways to add activity to your day while completing chores on your ”to-do" list.  For additional health benefits, focus on increasing lifestyle activities over and above structured moderate to vigorous intensity exercise bouts. 

1.  Katzmarzyk, P.T., Church, T.S., Craig, C.L., & Bouchard, C. (2009). Sitting time and Mortality from All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer. MSSE, 41(5),998-1005.

Source: The Cooper Institute    http://blog.standupandeat.org/post/2010/02/Physically-active-with-a-sedentary-lifestyle-Are-you-at-risk.aspx


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