Overtraining Running Syndrome: How Much Is Too Much?

We all know that if you want to achieve your goals and get good results, you need to focus and work hard. However, hard work doesn’t always equal results. It is important to avoid overtraining running syndrome.

Find out what competitive runner and coach Joe Muldowney thinks about healthy training and how to avoid overtraining running syndrome. In this article Joe will discuss the following topics:

  1. How Much Is Too Much?
  2. What Are the Signs of Overtraining Running Syndrome?
    1. Fatigue on Race Day.
    2. Difficulty Sleeping.
    3. ‘Bad’ Soreness.
    4. Failure.
  3. Tips to Avoid Overtraining Running Syndrome

1. How Much Is Too Much?

Overtraining Syndrome - Linked Fitness Community - Post - Joe MuldowneyIn order to achieve the best results in races, runners are a bit like tightrope walkers. They need to maintain balance to make it to the other side, without falling off.

There is no magic “perfect training” recipe. Training methods vary from runner to runner. While some runners thrive on logging high mileage, others achieve success through a regimen of short, fast miles.

The key to running your best races and maximizing your running potential is finding the training plan that works for you. Sometimes, throughout our running lives, determining what works for us involves trial and error. It is often achieved by learning what DOESN’T work for each of us.

Many runners “Leave their race out on the roads.” That is, they train hard, and on race day, their performance does not match their level of training. If this happens to you, you are probably suffering from overtraining running syndrome, and you’ve fallen off the tightrope.


Related: Running Pace: How to Find the Right Pace for You


2. What Are the Signs of Overtraining Running Syndrome?

When you push your body too hard, it doesn’t have time to recover and this can lead to all sorts of health and performance problems.

There are several physical and mental signs of overtraining running syndrome. If you are experiencing any or all  of these signs, it’s time to reevaluate your training plan.

1. Fatigue on Race Day

When you line up on the starting line, you should feel like a race horse in the stall at the beginning of a derby. You should feel fresh and eager for the gun to sound. If, during the early stages of the race, you feel fatigued, or you notice that your first split is 15 seconds slower than your goal, you are probably overtrained.

2. Difficulty Sleeping

Sleep is one of the most essential elements of a runner’s life. If you are training properly, you should fall asleep soon after hitting the pillow. If, however, you are overtraining, you will feel restless, and sleeping will be difficult. You will begin a cycle of fatigue that will lead to injury and/or poor performances.


Related: Half Marathon Training: A Guide for Beginners


3. ‘Bad’ Soreness

When we are training at a high level, we are going to be sore but there is a difference between good soreness and bad soreness. Leg fatigue is common to all of us. After a hard road workout, a long run, or a speed workout, our legs should feel sore for about 48 hours. If leg soreness remains much longer, it is bad soreness. This is probably a result of overtraining.

4. Failure

You planned a 6×800-meter speed session at the track. After the 4th 800 meter, you quit. Your legs just wouldn’t respond. With two miles to go on your 20-miler, you are forced to walk. These are definite signs of overtraining, and it is time to back off.

If you are suffering from these warning signs, there is no need to panic, you simply need to adjust.


Related: Marathon Training: A Guide for Beginners


3. Tips to Avoid Overtraining Running Syndrome

There is nothing more satisfying for a runner than turning in a good race performance and achieving a personal best. Today, there are more races to choose from than ever, and that can be both a blessing and a curse. If you overrace, your performances are going to suffer so follow these tips to stay healthy and get the best race results.

  1. Overtraining Syndrome - Linked Fitness Community - Post - Joe MuldowneySelect a race a month that you want to focus on. If you race more than that, use your focus race as a speed workout. You will save yourself, both mentally and physically, by scaling back your racing.
  2. Never overestimate the value of rest. If you feel overly fatigued, do not hesitate to take a day or two off, or cross train instead. You will feel refreshed when you return to running.
  3. Run hard days hard, but run easy days easy. The day after a race, speed workout, or a long run can be a day off, or a very easy day. Down the road from me, at Valley Forge, near Philadelphia, a group of Kenyans would run their “hard” days at a 5-minute a mile pace. On their “easy” days, however, they would jog an 8-minute pace.
  4. Respect the marathon. If you run a marathon, recognize that it takes at least a day to recover from every mile of the race, meaning that you really can’t train properly for about a month.
  5. Finally, I’m big on the “logbook” concept. I’ve kept written logbooks for 40 years. Write down your workouts in a logbook or on the computer. If you feel overtrained, look back at your best races and examine the training that enabled you to run that race. Keep what works, and abandon what doesn’t.

Look for the signs, make the corrections, when necessary, and you’ll successfully make it to the other side of the tightrope.

Related Video: Overtraining signs and symptoms from Runners


About Joe Muldowney

Running Workouts and What They Mean - Joe Muldowney - Linked Fitness Community Author Joe Muldowney is an accomplished runner who has been involved in competitive long distance running for 40 years. His vast experience has enabled him to coach several running teams and he now provides a one-on-one coaching service.

During his running career he has run 54 marathons, 51 of which have been under 3 hours. His best marathon time is 2:22:54, and, at age 57, he ran the 2010 Philadelphia Marathon in a time of 2:58:56. The Boston Marathon is a particular favourite – he has completed this an impressive 16 times. Marathons aside, he has run more than 1000 road races, and logged over 123,000 miles.

Joe is also the author of the book “Running Shorts: A Collection of Stories and Advice for Anyone Who Has Ever Laced Up a Pair of Running Shoes” and his latest book is, “Personal Best.”

 To find out more about Joe Muldwoney, you can visit his blog.

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