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.
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.
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.