Q:  How do I know if I'm overtraining and how can I avoid burnout?

A:  Overtraining isn't so much the training itself, but the result of inadequate recovery between workouts over time. It can be serious and can derail even the best-laid race plans.  It can also be difficult to decipher the signs and symptoms of overtraining.  After all, aren't we always told "no pain, no gain?"

Concerned that you might be on the cusp of overtraining?  Do any of the following apply to you:

  • Feeling moody or irritable
  • Lackluster training runs (difficulty hitting certain paces, etc.)
  • Declining performance in races
  • Feeling tired and run down – on training runs and in general
  • Sleep disturbances (insomnia, etc.)
  • Frequent bouts of sickness or taking longer to recover from illnesses
  • Muscle soreness and aches

An elevated resting heart rate can also be a sign of overtraining.  But keep in mind other factors – stress, caffeine, etc. – can also affect this number.  It's best to take your heart rate first thing in the morning (before getting out of bed) and look for any trends.

If a few of the signs and symptoms listed above apply to you, what should you do?  In a nutshell, rest!  How much rest depends on the severity of your symptoms.  Err on more rest rather than less…or you might find yourself back in the overtraining zone.

Take into consideration outside stressors as well.  If you have a lot going on outside of running, maybe now isn't the best time to train for a PR or even a big race.  Focus on eating right and getting more sleep.  And, when you return to running, ease into it.  Keep the majority (if not all) of your runs easy and, over time, add in harder workouts.

Overtraining can be avoided by making recovery a priority…all year long.    Recovery is key to getting stronger and should be penciled in to your training plan just like any other workout.

Kristy Campbell is a RRCA-certified coach located in Conshohocken and founder of Run The Long Road Coaching She believes that success in running comes down to hard work, consistency, and determination.  In her spare time, she runs around after her daughter, Fiona.

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