We’re hitting a dreaded wall with progress, so instead of re-evaluating, we dig in deeper. We work harder, maybe cut more calories, increase the distance of our runs, push our paces and suddenly everything seems WORSE. Overtraining symptoms are pretty easy to recognize, but not always easy to respond to wisely.
There’s that satisfying feeling of dog-tiredness as you reach peak marathon training or after a good speed sesh at the track and then there’s the feeling of utter exhaustion all the time, no matter what stage you are in during your training or how easy the run was that day.
While it IS important to log miles, it becomes less so if it means you’re sacrificing in other areas. Eating, sleeping, hydrating, and recovery are all part of the entire training plan. Not just running alone.
So if you’re not sure if what you’re feeling is just normal marathon training tiredness or signs you’ve taken things too far, checkout these Overtraining Syndrome symptoms and make a change if needed!
7 OVERTRAINING SYMPTOMS FOR RUNNERS
You hear that rest days are part of training, but I still think it often takes a swing of feeling BAD to let it sink in. If the elite athletes know that rest days and easy running are important…why do we think we can skip it? Curious, isn’t it.
Elites spend 80% of their time running easy and optimize recovery time with naps, massages, lots of sleep and high quality food. But not us. No, no, we’re busy. We don’t run 100 miles, so we probably don’t need as much rest…and that’s why we get injured.
How often do you need a rest day?
That largely depends on the intensity of your training, your nutrition, your sleep and your current lifestyle. We break this down more in rest vs active recovery.
What happens if you don’t take a rest day?
The list below highlights some common symptoms of overtraining. Many signs occur in combination with others. A body cannot perform at its best if it is under too much stress and your running will suffer if you keep at it.
What happens to your body if you overtrain?
As you’ll see in the symptoms below, it throws everything out of whack. Your hormone levels are off, you may start to hold on to body fat due to increased cortisol and the progress you were seeing starts to go backwards.
1. You’re Having Trouble Sleeping
Poor sleep quality or inability to fall asleep quickly is a sign that your nervous system is on overload. Without regular sleep, the body cannot function to its full potential
Regular, high quality sleep stimulates muscle growth and repair and boosts the immune system.
Lack of sleep results in poor workout performance and inhibits conversion of carbs to glycogen.
Endurance athletes tend to skimp on sleep in order to get the miles in, however, sacrificing too much beauty rest won’t produce the performance results you’re hoping for. Plus, you’ll feel sore and will likely get sick more often – ahem, your body’s way of forcing you to rest.
2. You’re Super Thirsty All the Time
If you’re constantly thirsty or notice that your pee is dark yellow, that’s a sure sign of dehydration.
Under constant stress, the adrenal glands begin to release cortisol, the “stress hormone.” This is known as adrenal fatigue. In this state, the exhausted adrenal glands can’t properly produce aldosterone, the hormone that regulates electrolyte and fluid levels, thus stimulating a demand for water.
Another reason for insatiable thirst could be that the body has reached a catabolic state. This occurs when the body begins to break down muscle tissue to use as fuel rather than fats or carbs.
Without proper hydration and fueling during times of intense training, the body has no other choice. Dehydration is one symptom that the body is in a catabolic state.
3. You Feel Slow and Weak During Workouts
A bad workout happens to us all every now and then, however if it’s beginning to seem like every single workout is a slog, then it’s time to take a look at your training schedule.
Feeling slow, weak, or missing time goals by a large margin indicates fatigue. You’re likely not allowing enough time for your muscles to recover, not getting enough sleep, and not fueling properly.
Perhaps you aren’t taking your recovery days easy enough. There’s a reason most training plans only call for one to two hard sessions per week. The majority of your training runs should be easy efforts, but if your easy runs are dragging you down, then take a step back and see what the root cause could be.
4. You Have Nagging Aches And Pains
When your body is tired, muscles sore, and you haven’t slept well in days, you’re more likely to fall out of form. Running long term with poor form is a recipe for developing an overuse injury from the repeated stress and strain.
If you weren’t taking enough rest before, you’re sure to find yourself forced into rest when you have a full blown injury. The body is smarter than you think and if you don’t give it rest, it will ensure you rest.
Each time we exercise, the stress creates microscopic tears in the muscle tissue. With proper rest, the muscle has time to repair, however, continuous, repetitive movements, like running only cause more tears that lead to inflammation.
This is one reason we may not be losing weight despite increased exercise.
While muscle soreness is completely normal if you’re just starting out, trying a new technique, or lifting weights, feeling sore all the time is a sign of overtraining.’
5. Mental Training Burnout
Of course, there are always days where we don’t feel like working out. Maybe we stayed out later than normal with friends, we’re in the middle of peak week training or the wind is howling.
Days and days of needing to forcefully drag yourself from bed because both a deep mental and physical fatigue is a sign of burnout. I’ve talked all about how to avoid that mental burnout during marathon training, so I won’t rehash it. But want to ensure it’s highlighted here ans a symptom that you may need a day or week off to recoup.
6. Your Heart Rate is Abnormal
Both an elevated or reduced heart rate can indicate exercised-related stress. If your heart rate exceeds five to 10 beats per minute in either direction, then it could be time to take a rest.
Knowing your regular resting and maximum heart rate helps with recovery, performance, and reduces the risk of overtraining. If your heart rate is above normal in the morning, then take that as a sign to resist a tough workout that day.
An elevated heart rate means that your body is releasing more oxygen to the brain and muscles as a result of stress hormones sending the body into fight or flight mode.
The best way to get to know your regular resting heart rate is by taking it first thing in the morning every day using a heart rate monitor.
7. You’ve Stopped Getting Your Period
This is a serious sign of the Female Athlete Triad, a fairly common symptom among women that often goes ignored. The syndrome presents with three symptoms: low energy, amenorrhea (irregular periods), and low bone mineral density.
One of the first signs of the Female Athlete Triad is loss of your period. This happens as a result of insufficient fuel consumption to sustain the level of activity. When the period disappears, it affects bone health. Low bone mineral density increases risk of injury and can have long lasting and irreversible consequences if not treated right away.
This is not a normal occurrence for women and should be managed immediately.
How long does overtraining syndrome last?
The truth is it depends on how big of a hole you’ve dug for yourself. If you’ve pushed all the way to adrenal fatigue, it could be months of backing off all workouts to help your body stabilize.
However, most runners who take note of the symptoms above and back off, find that a few months of easy yoga, walks and yes a lot of sleep, could be enough to start easing back in to a much smarter training plan.