Over-training in running
If you're pushing it hard, but your times are down and you're feeling more and more tired, your body could be telling you to ease off.

Over-training in running

What is over-training?

Over-training occurs when training loads are increased beyond the body's capability, when the resultant stress causes physical (and possibly mental) breakdown.

This can be caused by over-enthusiasm, lack of planning, external stresses on your life or the misguided belief in 'no pain, no gain'.

Symptoms of over-training

It is important to recognise when we are over-training. Common symptoms include:

  • slower times
  • loss of strength
  • loss of co-ordination
  • increased time for recovery from standard sessions
  • higher than usual susceptibility to colds and flus, allergies and minor infections
  • constantly feeling tired
  • reduced appetite
  • weight loss
  • lack of concentration
  • increased resting heart rate
  • higher than normal blood pressure
  • lethargy
  • lack of, or poor quality, sleep
  • mood swings
  • increased caffeine intake.
These symptoms will vary between athletes.

One of the best ways to tell whether you are suffering from over-training is to do a regular run and record your time, average and maximum heart rate, and recovery time.

If your time is slower than normal and your average or maximum heart rate higher than normal, or your rate of recovery longer, you may well be over-training.

If you are over-training...

If you think you are over-training, take a couple of days off and reduce your workload for that week. Reassess your training schedule and make sure you have struck the right balance between hard and easy days.

For more info have a look at the Rest and recovery article.

Note: if you have a cold or flu, it is important that you take a rest from training completely. This will allow your immune system time and energy to fight the infection - any exercise will take energy away from the immune system and prolong recovery.

Monitoring for over-training

One way of listening to the messages your body is giving you is by monitoring your resting heart rate every morning :
  • Establish your normal heart rate by taking it every morning before getting out of bed.
  • Calculate the average over a week - this is your baseline.
  • Keep a record of your baseline and monitor it daily.
Use the following formula to check whether you should be training at full intensity, or at all:
  • If your pulse is 10% higher than your baseline pulse, then you should have an easy day - reduce the duration or intensity (or both) of your training.
  • If your pulse is 15% higher than your baseline pulse, then you should take a rest day - do not resume training until your pulse is within 10% of your baseline pulse.
Sleep and recovery

Sleep plays an important part in recovery and is therefore an important component of an exercise program.

The best way to achieve regular sleeping patterns is to establish a routine.
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time.
  • Find out how much sleep your body needs and ensure you get it every night.
  • Make sure you are relaxed by the time you go to sleep.
  • Try to finish training at least 3 hours before going to sleep.
  • Establish a winding down routine before bed, for example by taking a warm relaxing bath.
  • Make your bedroom a worry free zone.
  • Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature.
  • Avoid drinking caffeine before bed (remember there are small amounts of caffeine in chocolate - fruit tea is a great alternative to hot chocolate).
  • If you can't sleep, relax and try not to toss and turn.
  • It is important to listen to your body to be aware of when you are overdoing it. Get plenty of rest and make sure you have plenty of days with little exercise.
  • Monitor your pulse early in the morning to see if you are doing too much.
  • Be aware of other signs of over-training, such as poor performance, unusual heart rates and a constant feeling of fatigue.
  • Recognise the importance of sleep - keep to the same sleeping patterns in order to maintain a rewarding physical exercise program.


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