Overtraining Syndrome: Symptoms and 4 Ways to Fix It Fast!
Runners are known for being mentally tough. It is common for them to push too hard when their bodies are telling them they need a break. This can develop into something called Overtraining Syndrome, which can lead to poor performance and overall fatigue.
The most successful runners balance stress and rest. You strain your body and then allow it to build back up stronger than it originally was. But when you strain your body and don’t allow ample time to recover, it continues to break down and becomes chronically stressed.
This state is overtraining.
In this article, we will share what overtraining syndrome is, the signs of overtraining syndrome, and what to do if you are experiencing symptoms of overtraining.
So, let’s go!
What is overtraining?
According to the Hospital for Special Surgery, overtraining syndrome “occurs when an athlete doesn’t adequately recover after intense, repetitive training and can include fatigue, declining performance, and potential injury.”
Overtraining is caused when an athlete misses or ignores the warning signs from their bodies that they are pushing themselves too hard and continue to push.
The body assumes a chronic state of breakdown, which impacts the quality of life and training.
18 signs of overtraining syndrome
There are plenty of signs of overtraining.
In fact, wearables such as the WHOOP and Garmin will tell you if you are overtraining by giving you a low recovery score or unproductive status. These readings are based on your vitals, such as heart rate and performance, such as pace.
But you don’t need an expensive watch to tell you you are overtraining. Your body gives plenty of clues.
Here are 18 signs of overtraining syndrome:
- Unusual muscle soreness that doesn’t go away
- Deteriorating or plateaued performance, despite the amount of effort
- Heavy legs, even at lower intensities
- Inability to recover in between work bouts
- Lack of enthusiasm or even dread of workouts
- Overall fatigue
- Anxiousness, depression, anger, moodiness, or confusion
- Poor sleep quality
- Decreased motivation
- Lack of joy
- Getting sick more frequently
- Elevated heart rate, including at rest and when working out
- Irregular or missed periods for women
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Constipation or diarrhea
Are overtraining and overreaching the same?
Overreaching and overtraining are not the same.
Overreaching is an intentional hard training method in which you progressively overload your body and then follow it up with adequate rest to allow it to rebuild.
For example, a marathon training schedule will have a runner do the most intense training week with the most mileage and then follow up with a decreased training load in the form of a taper ahead of the marathon.
Overreaching is typically followed by a boost in performance and fitness level.
Overtraining lacks the rest component of the training.
You overload your system without allowing it to recover properly.
What does running burnout feel like?
Running burnout is similar to overtraining syndrome in that you may lack motivation and even feel depressed. You have both physical and mental fatigue.
Unlike overtraining syndrome, overreaching may not be accompanied by physical signs such as an increased resting heart rate or restlessness.
To determine if you have runners’ burnout, ask yourself:
- Are you running slower than usual?
- Do you feel unmotivated to run?
- Is running less enjoyable?
- Do you feel tired or exhausted most of the time?
If your answer is yes to most of these questions, you may be burnt out on running.
Can you run through overtraining?
It is not advised that you run when recovering from overtraining syndrome. You can do some light intensity running to stay fit or dramatically reduced volume of running.
This is a great time to explore other activities you may enjoy, like yoga, barre, or gentle walks.
How long do overtraining symptoms last?
The symptoms of overtraining may last at least 4 weeks to 12 weeks.
Look for signs such as lowered heart rate and increased energy as signs that you’re recovering before resuming a running routine.
Ease back into running gradually and gauge how you feel.
What is the fastest way to recover from overtraining?
While most runners don’t want to be told to rest and will look for any other excuse to keep up with their training sessions, the only way to recover from overtraining is to stop training.
You don’t need to rest forever.
Pause your training program for at least one to three weeks and note how you feel. You may need to take up to three months of rest.
Gradually resume your running, increasing mileage about ten percent week over week with a 20 percent reduction once a month.
How many rest days should I have a week?
To prevent the overtraining syndrome, it is recommended to:
- Rest at least one day per week.
- Keep most of your runs easy (most recreational runners can abide by the 80/20 rule).
- Take a down week of reduced mileage by 20-30 percent every fourth week or so of training.
4 keys fix overtraining when running
There are several steps you can take to fix overtraining syndrome—and all steps will help you be a healthier person overall.
Depending on the severity of the overtraining syndrome and the intensity of a person’s running, they need time of complete rest or reduced volume by 50 to 80 percent.
High-intensity workouts should also be removed from the running schedule if a runner continues to run at a reduced volume. Runners can perform light activities such as walking while on rest for overtraining syndrome.
If you are suffering from a running injury or illness due to overtraining syndrome, it is during this rest time that you can rehab and heal.
Also, focus on mobility through mobility and strength exercises, yoga, and foam rolling.
This will help you return to running healthier and stronger.
Sleep is where recovery and growth happen.
During sleep, your body releases hormones such as the Human Growth Hormone, which helps your tissues build back stronger. Thus, runners suffering from overtraining syndrome need to rev up their sleeping to help their bodies recover from the stress put upon it.
Keep in mind that the National Sleep Foundation recommends that most adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, more if you are running.
Runners need to fuel their activity with proper nutrition, which helps them perform and recover well.
For example, runners need to take in carbohydrates for energy before and after runs. They need to take in protein after their runs to rebuild their muscles at the molecular level.
Give your body the ingredients it needs to rebuild.
Also, don’t forget to hydrate before, during, and after your workouts.
Water is vital for pretty much all functions of your body!
During your break from running, revisit your training and discover what worked well and didn’t work well for you.
- How can you prevent overtraining from happening in the future?
- Do you need more rest days?
- Should you run less mileage?
- Do you need more recovery in between workouts?
- Do you need more frequent cutbacks in mileage in the form of down weeks?
Also, think hard about why you decided to push yourself when your body was telling you it was too much. Often, these decisions are made from fear or insecurities.
Remember that everyBODY, every athlete, is different and what training works well for one runner may not work well for others. You may shine at less volume.
Do what works best for you!
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