Running several times per week is highly stimulating! Whether your goal is to stay in shape, not gain weight, make progress or just feel good, large amounts of running can be very tempting. However, watch out! Whether you are a novice or the most experienced runner, it is very easy to go beyond your own limits and quickly end up overtraining.
But what is overtraining ? At what point should I worry about overtraining?
Overtraining cannot be anticipated, and its symptoms are slow in appearing. It will take several weeks for you to start to feel unusual changes. Despite regular training sessions, you might feel like you are no longer making progress, or are even regressing. You might feel more tired than normal and your muscles and joints might start to ache.
How can I tell if I'm overtraining ?
Overtraining is an accumulation of physical and psychological fatigue leading to lower performance in athletes. During every training session, your muscles are subjected to stress and need time to recover. In fact, overtraining occurs when muscles that are called upon too often can no longer exert themselves. Your entire body gets tired, and overtraining can become a very serious issue if you are not sleeping or eating well.
After exercising, your muscles and joints need time to recover, mend and develop. Training for too long or too intensively prevents your muscles from restoring their energy levels, regenerating and growing stronger
Overtraining rapidly leads to fatigue, causing cellular damage to accumulate and leading to injuries. In every sport, relaxation phases are essential. These improve your physical condition, favour progress and replenish your energy reverses.
What are the main causes of overtraining ?
Overtraining leads to overall body malfunction and is not only caused by strength training.
It has numerous causes:
- Too quickly increasing your training (intensity);
- Elite competitions that are too close together (frequency);
- Unbalanced nutrition (deficiencies, dehydration, low energy supply);
- Strain or stress;
- An environmental which differs from your normal environment (cold or heat);
- An unhealthy lifestyle; and
- Poor health.
Nevertheless, the main cause of overtraining in runners is running too frequently, leading to recovery periods that are of poor quality or too short.
How can I tell if I am overtraining?
Aside from decreasing performance and increasing fatigue, the symptoms of overtraining differ in each runner and depend on numerous factors. Here are some symptoms to watch out for:
- Decreased appetite and consequent weight loss;
- Nausea and difficulty sleeping;
- Metabolic abnormalities;
- Muscle or joint pain;
- Increased resting heart rate and higher blood pressure;
- Moodiness or irritability;
- Poor health (infections); or
- Decreased motivation during training sessions.
To determine if you are overtraining, make sure to contact a doctor specialising in sports medicine for a diagnosis, which will include specific tests such as a psychological and nutritional questionnaire, a performance analysis and a blood test.
What should I do if I'm overtraining?
The answer is quite simple: enhance muscle recovery by making sure to rest fully and improve your diet. These techniques will allow your muscles and joints to mend, bring your metabolism back into balance, reduce stress and allow you to rediscover your motivation.
Depending on the degree of overtraining that your blood test reveals, your rest time may vary. You may have to rest completely from a few days to several weeks. After this rest period, which is essential, you can gradually begin training again. Workouts should be low intensity and should include a variety of activities, such as walking, cycling and swimming.
To get back in shape, change your daily activities to improve your lifestyle, eat a balanced diet and manage stress by using relaxation techniques
How can I prevent overtraining?
There are currently no physiological or biological indicators of overtraining. The only effective way to identify overtraining is based on the way your body feels. To prevent overtraining, be on the lookout for indicators, such as irritability, persistent muscle pain, headaches, or a lack of motivation.
Whether you are a novice or a more experienced runner, you can engage in reasonably intensive workouts without the pitfall of overtraining. Most importantly, do not set goals which are beyond your abilities
Follow this advice to avoid overtraining risks:
- Plan realistic goals for your training session, and make sure to consider the frequency and intensity of your training sessions and your relaxation periods.
- Regularly run a standard route to keep track of and analyse your physical performance.
- During a doctor's visit, do a cardiac stress test or ECG to monitor the effectiveness of your training.
- If you are experiencing persistent aches, do not start running again.
- Regularly keep track of your psychological state (the quality of your sleep, your behaviour, etc.).
- Choose quality when running. For example, increase intensity during a weak period.
- Use a training notebook to keep a record or your resting heart rate and heart rate during exercise, how you feel when you run, variations in your weight, etc
If you have any doubts about what you are doing, make sure to cut back on your training and consult your doctor for advice.
When you run, always listen to your body. It's talking to you!