What Overtraining Is And How It Affects Your Running Goals
Exercise is always good for you, right? The truth is that too much of anything isn’t good for anyone. If you are training for a marathon or a racing event and going overboard, you are working against your goals instead of toward them. Training for a marathon is a deep commitment, but that doesn’t mean that you should strap on your shoes even when you least feel like it. Knowing when to push yourself, and when not to, is about learning to listen to the signals that your body is sending you.
What is overtraining?
Overtraining is a condition where you aren’t allowing your body enough time to heal and repair itself. Not many people think of endurance running as muscle building, but it is. When you go out for a long run, what you do is break down muscle tissue. That tissue needs to repair itself, and in doing so, it creates more muscle fibers that make you stronger and increase your endurance capacity. If you don’t allow your muscles time to heal, you are weakening your immune system, decreasing your muscle strength, and setting yourself up for either illness or injury. In either case, if you aren’t giving yourself enough time to recover, you are working against your running goals.
How long should you take in-between runs?
The tiny tears that you make in your muscle fiber during running take a minimum of 48-72 hours to repair themselves. If you do long distance runs every day, you are not allowing the muscle to recover successfully. That can lead to a breakdown of your muscle fiber, leaving you vulnerable to injury. When training, it is important to give yourself at minimum of 48 in between your long runs for your muscles to repair and recoup.
Most of us have a really hard time taking the time off, but the good news is that you don’t have to. Just because you can’t go for your long runs, that does not mean that you can’t be working toward your ultimate goal. On the off days take the time to do weight training on other crucial muscles. Your core musculature is an integral part of keeping you strong and injury free. When possible, use your non-long run days to do upper body strength exercises and to build core muscles that highlight balance and flexibility. Even if you are not a “gym” person, it is important to weight training to keep all those other parts of your body that are active during running capable of keeping pace.
What are the symptoms of overtraining?
There are many signs of overtraining; the problem is that usually by the time you recognize them, the damage has been done. When you overtrain, you may feel extremely exhausted, or perpetually sore. Not giving your muscles time to recover, you will likely feel achy all over, instead of feeling any particular muscle soreness.
Also, those who overtrain may start to accumulate things called “trigger points”. They are points in the muscle where the nerve tissue fires constantly. You can sometimes physically feel a trigger point, and sometimes you can’t. In some cases, a trigger point can lead to something called referred pain, which can happen anywhere throughout the body and it may be difficult to detect its origination. Usually, they happen in the hamstrings, the shoulder blades, and sometimes in the calf muscles. They are a response to repetition without rest and weaknesses in the body. When your muscles are weak, they respond by becoming short and tight. That can lead to trigger points or tiny muscle knots of firing nerve bundles. Other extreme symptoms can manifest themselves in things like weight loss, hair loss and sometimes even loss of appetite.
Plan your rest
The good thing about overtraining is that it is an easy thing to avoid. By taking a couple of days off in between your long runs and listening to your body when it is saying it has had enough, you can keep yourself off of the injured list. It is also important to get the proper nutrition, especially protein, which is imperative for muscle growth. By taking care of yourself when training, you can ensure that you never succumb to overtraining, and take yourself out of the running before the event even happens.