Could You Be Overtraining?

Runners are a dedicated group. For the most part, that dedication leads to personal bests and tackling tough new distances. However, sometimes runners can take their commitment too far, skipping rest days and fitting in extra workouts. After a while, that can lead to overtraining.

What is overtraining?

Overtraining refers to the decline in performance when an athlete trains too much. Although it sounds like a problem exclusive to elite runners, that's not necessarily the case. Running can take its toll on the body, and without the opportunity to rest, the body isn't able to properly recover. This is true regardless of your mileage—even casual marathoners and weekend warriors are at risk.

The concept behind overtraining may seem counterintuitive—how can you train too much? But the changes that take place during a training schedule, such as muscle growth and  increased endurance, require rest to take place. Consider yourself after a particularly grueling run. You probably feel good, but fatigued and maybe even sore. The next day, the soreness is usually a little more pronounced. This is because hard workouts cause tiny tears in muscle fibers. With adequate rest, the muscle is able to repair the tear and grow stronger because of it. If you don't rest, the muscle can't recover. The same is true for the rest of your body.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of overtraining may vary from individual to individual. However, most people notice that they feel tired, even after a good night's rest. You may notice that you're unmotivated to work out, irritable, and worn down overall. Your runs may begin to suffer, and you might have difficulty sleeping.

Additionally, if you're familiar with your normal resting heart rate, you might notice that it's elevated. Those suffering from overtraining are at an increased risk of injury and have weakened immune systems, as well.

How is it treated?

Overtraining is usually diagnosed by a physical examination and listening to symptoms. Once diagnosed, your doctor will likely advise you to rest. The length of time changes based on the individual and how severe the symptoms are, but expect to be resting for anywhere from four weeks to a couple of months.

If you're noticing symptoms of overtraining, check with your doctor to see if you need to take a break. To prevent overtraining in the future, be sure to make rest and recovery just as much of a priority as your runs. For more information, contact a sports clinic such as Adult & Pediatric Orthopedics SC.