Coming to Grips with Overtraining

I don’t have an actual diagnosis of overtraining. What I do have is a cluster of symptoms, and an itchy feeling in the back of my brain that I need to take some time off (while having the compulsive urge to push on.)

Here’s a bit of a time line.

Early March, I purchased a new pair of running shoes after more than a few months of not running, but primarily doing elliptical training at the gym. That was just over a month and a half ago. While I was doing regular work-outs at the gym, with cardio and strength training, I know I wasn’t really pushing that hard, even if I was going for 45 minutes of cardio. With my new running shoes, I started back with my 30 minute walk/run, doing about 2.15 miles in 30 minutes, at best. This is almost average for me.

I can’t remember exactly when I got bitten by the bug to train – maybe it was just the neighborhood 5K that I did a month ago. (Was it only a month ago?!) In a matter of weeks, I doubled my mileage and duration. I didn’t slowly amp-up, no – I went straight for it. I have become faster, and just yesterday did a painful 20 minute jog under a 11 min/mi pace! I was even walking faster! However, I woke up this morning (actually, throughout the night) to my muscles being sore and tight again, and feeling a general sense of anxiety and dread. I loved the calorie burn pay-off I was getting from all that training I was doing. However, the flood of adrenaline to my body from training is not loving my psyche.

Running makes me feel like a superwoman when I’m in the moment, and the run is good. My body feels battered right now, my psyche feels battered, I’m wanting to quit running, while simultaneously wanting to have the strength and will to hit the pavement.

Overtraining has the symptom of decreased performance – and I don’t know if I’ve got that yet (although yesterday’s run that didn’t last more than 20 minutes may count.) I certainly have some of the physiological and psychological effects. (TMI: My period was over 10 days late, which can be another symptom of overtraining.) I’m frustrated with my body right now, the same way I get frustrated when I’m sick. My body is just not wanting to cooperate with what my mind wants to do.

Maybe this is an opportunity to be still, and be mindful. Maybe, just maybe, I need to take a week off. A real week. Not just a couple days (as I did earlier this week.)

What will I write about here? Not training? I’m sure that my 3 readers will read anyway. For everyone else that might stumble upon this blog – stay tuned.

Recommended links:

Overtraining and Injury Prevention
PDF Overtraining and Amenorrhea
Preventing Overtraining

6 thoughts on “Coming to Grips with Overtraining

  1. One suggestion I saw recently is that if you have pain, anything like an injury, or etc. cut your mileage in half, then ramp up from that new point. Usually 10% a week is considered OK, that means it should take you about 8 weeks to double your distance, so you'd have to be prepared to not be doing your current mileage for another couple months. But you'd be less likely to be feeling injured and overtrained. Taking a week off then going back to what you're doing now sounds more stressful.I wrote a little program that calculates 10% running distance increases, so if you were to send me a recent representative week's runs I could turn the crank and send you a running program that will not increase too harshly 🙂

  2. Thanks, Emily. I've definitely been overdoing it, and I'm not planning to go back to what I was doing, in fact, I'm planning to scale back to where I was – just doing 30 min 3x/wk and going up from there (doing 4x/wk.) I'm thinking I may need to quit TnT (before I really start) just because I think my temperament is not suited for it. I'll keep you posted!

  3. I think Emily's got the right idea. I think you'll still be burning calories at an accelerated rate if you reduce, but don't stop – not to mention the psychological benefits of running, which are considerable. It's all right to scale back to take care of yourself. Lovies…

  4. Jem – I'm taking a week or so off because I've gotten some of the bad stuff from overtraining, such as my overworked adrenals. One of the things I'm having to learn is balance, and the runner's high is a real thing, but it can be too much of a good thing. I'm hoping to eat more good foods and drink more water to get myself back into balance.

  5. Ignore this if you like (you probably will since like me you have your own ideas 🙂 ) But based on a starting point of running 30 min 3x a week, here's an example schedule of how you could safely increase by 10% a week for ~9 weeks (then take stock of where you're at). This also includes back-off weeks every 4 weeks, where you temporarily reduce your running to 80% of the previous week to rest and let your muscles recover.In this chart, the first number listed would be your short fast run for the week. Run as quickly or slowly as you like, but you can ignore your HR and it's ok to push yourself a little.The second number is your interval / drills run. You can do this however you like, or if I'm going to a track practice I make that my interval run and just do whatever drills we're doing. If going by yourself, make sure that if you're running quickly some of the time, you're also jogging super slowly to recover the same amount of time. (The way I've been doing this is to set a max HR at about 90% of max, and if I hit that then my rule is I have to slow down until my HR is at the slowest I can get it and still be kinda jogging — around the top end of zone 3.)The third one is your long slow jog. Set your watch to yell at you if you get out of zone 3. No cheating. For a while you might have to recover by walking for half the time or more if you can't jog in zone 3 — that's totally cool.I wouldn't suggest adding a 4th running day for the first few months, maybe for the first year. Keep it so that you have at least 1 rest day between any two running days until you're so buff that running is no big deal for you.If you are very set on running for the same duration and intensity each of your 3 weekly runs, you can just use the # in the center for all of them, but that means you gotta take it easy (30+ min run is not your fast run!) and I don't think that's optimal.2010-04-27: 15 30 452010-05-04: 16 33 492010-05-11: 18 36 542010-05-18: 19 39 592010-05-25: 15 31 472010-06-01: 20 41 622010-06-08: 22 45 682010-06-15: 25 50 752010-06-22: 20 40 60sorry if this is overstepping… I just love my 10% increase / 80% backoff printing out program 🙂

  6. Actually on second thought, if 30 min is supposed to be your slow jog duration, this might be better (I think I started too high…)2010-04-27: 10 20 302010-05-04: 11 22 332010-05-11: 12 24 362010-05-18: 13 26 392010-05-25: 10 21 312010-06-01: 13 27 412010-06-08: 15 30 452010-06-15: 16 33 502010-06-22: 13 26 40

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