How do I know if I am over training? #running #marathon #fitness

running-advice-bugRunners are often at odds with trying to run enough to meet their goals and doing too much for their capabilities. When a runner steps over this line he or she runs the risk of over-training, which can mean an ugly feeling decline in performance. The question today is how do you know when you are over-training and what can you do about it?

ARe YOU OVER TRAINING-Before we dive in to the signs and symptoms of over-training, let’s take a moment to differentiate a couple of things. First, over-training and over-use injuries are two different things. Over-use injuries happen when a particular body part, such as a knee or IT band is worked too hard and it essentially breaks. Over-training, as we’ll discuss, does not necessarily imply becoming injured, although the two often go hand-in-hand. Second, fatigue is a normal part of training. Many of the benefits of our workouts come from pushing into a zone that will leave us very fatigued. This again is different from over-training, which zaps us of our ability to recover and continuing making forward progress.

The best way to understand over-training is to define it and then break down the definition. My definition would be that in most instances, “over-training comes from doing too much and too intense an amount of work without enough recovery.” Now let’s deconstruct that a bit.

First, the words “too much” here are relative and can vary from person to person and even as it relates to where you are for your own fitness. It’s obviously pretty easy for a new runner to do “too much” when they are just starting out, but an experienced runner can do “too much” when they have taken time off, become inconsistent with their workouts, or are just coming out of a slack period such as a winter break. Often runners “jump back in” and try to resume what they were doing at a previous time and that may be too much for their current fitness level. Also, runners can be impressed upon by what they read in the press about elite athletes and the volume of their mileage without understanding what goes into those miles and they’ll just jump in and try to emulate the numbers they see. I hear people tell me all of the time, so and so “runs 100 miles a week, shouldn’t I being doing that?” The answer is that it depends on your level, your current fitness, your goals and (most importantly) the make-up of those miles.
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Training — How much running is too much for teens?

Coach Dean Hebert

Coach Dean Hebert

Coach Dean Hebert joins us today to answer a question from a parent, asking about how much running is too much for teen runners:

My daughter runs on a local cross country team. They start running every morning in the summer, 3 miles to 4 miles a day. In August they begin running 4-6 miles a day with races every weekend. In September they begin running 4-5 miles in the mornings and 3-5 miles in the afternoons. They had a retreat over the weekend and ran 20 miles of practice. Every year by this time of year…. the girls team of about 15 members, ages 13 years old to 18 years old at least 1-2 girls have stress fractures in their legs. Are they being trained too hard? Is this too intense for this age group? Marki

The proof is in the pudding. Though teen runners are more likely to encounter injuries due to their initial lack of conditioning and lack of year round training something like stress fractures at that rate is extreme. In all my years of coaching runners of all ages (including teen girls) I would be exaggerating if the incidence of stress fractures are 1 in 100 (or more) per year. 1-2 out of 15 is indeed excessive.

The rule of thumb is still to increase mileage about 10% per week. So let’s do the math together. If the team runs everyday 3 or 4 miles per day then they are running 15-28 miles per week to start out. By September, they are running as much as 8-10 miles per day, which is 50-70 miles per week! And add to that 20 miles in a single weekend retreat. This would be a lot of miles even for marathon runners, but the question I have is for what purpose are all these miles being run? Their cross-country race is only 5k!
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Training: How much is too much of a good thing? Over-training and Plateauing with runners

A reader named Nilla wrote in to ask a question that is symptomatic of many runners. After a period of time their workouts may appear to stop having a positive impact or they just might start to struggle doing the same workouts that they’ve been doing for a long time. This can be frustrating and difficult to understand. Coach Dean tackles the issue of overtraining and plateauing in this article.

Here’s Nilla’s question:

I have been running for 8 years now. I’ve run comfortably at an 8:30 mile pace and have consistently run 35-40 miles per week. I have participated in several races including a couple of half marathons. But for the past 5 months, running has been very difficult for me. It is a struggle just to get in an easy run. The first mile is okay but the remaining miles are awful. My legs get tired, my lungs hurt and overall I feel terrible. By the end of an easy 6 miler, my body is spent! My enjoyment in running is dwindling because of this and I have tried to determine what is the cause. Nothing has changed that I can tell. I have tried starting my runs off slower to save energy and taken more days off during the week but it hasn’t helped. I’m a 5 ft. 9, 30 year old female who eats healthy, gets lots of sleep but is I am still at a loss! Can you please give me some advice?

This is a common question, so first, let me reassure you that you’re not alone. Every athlete goes through these spells at one time or another. Usually these issues boil down to either over-training or what we call plateauing.

Before we jump into those issues however, it’s important to rule out any other physiological causes. Stress, for instance, is one cause that is ofter overlooked. Also Low grade infections or other disease processes may be having an impact on your performance. Allergies can also foster these same symptoms. For women, I strongly recommend evaluation for iron deficiencies.

In addition to these more typical issues, the on-set of more serious diseases could be draining you of your energy. So, a first step is to get to a doctor and eliminate any physical causes or illnesses.
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