We often pursue better results by challenging ourselves. This is more applicable to athletes and non-professional sportsmen who spend hours in a gym, log many miles on a course and push themselves harder because they desire to achieve an immaculate performance or set personal records. “Running addiction” evolves when you get stronger and notice visual results. Even though running is considered to be a healthy way to work out the whole body, it is still important to know your limits. Runners usually get out of their comfort zone by doing longer runs, therefore, overtraining running. They put more stress on their muscles which makes the body break down and deteriorate in performance. Avoiding adequate recovery and rest leads to adverse consequences, such as fatigue, weight loss, and much more. This article covers the 6 running signs of overtraining and how you can treat it.
How Do I Know If I Overtrained At Running?
Running is the most popular training among athletes and non-professionals. This activity is associated with various benefits, like better sleep, improved memory, better cardio health, and energy (3). Runners who run longer distances but spend less time on muscle recovery encounter running overtraining.
Running overtraining syndrome or unexplained underperformance syndrome is the process during which the runner doesn’t recover from intensive consistent running. You can also reach the point of overexercising by not properly fueling your body with the right amount of nutrients and calories (7).
How can you know that you are overtrained at running? It is simple: you will bump into the first phase – overreaching.
Running overreaching is when you start feeling more intense muscle soreness. Runners ignore it by pushing even harder day by day without the actual rest. When overreaching is extreme and combined with more stressful training, the overtraining syndrome appears (4).
Among the most common signs of overtraining running:
- loss of appetite
- lack of sleep
- declined performance
- injuries (5).
Neglecting these symptoms makes your sports performance ineffective and painful.
What Happens If You Overtrain Running?
If you are a serious runner, this situation might sound familiar to you. You run a couple of miles, you get better and proud of yourself. Next you decide to increase to five miles instead of only three. You still feel invigorated and you start thinking “What if I run like this every day?”. And you do, you run every day, and at first, it seems fine but you gradually stumble upon the unbearable pain in your muscles.
When you overtrain at running, your body encounters both physical and emotional changes. The first problem you get is the overall body soreness that doesn’t allow you to fully rev up your muscles during running. This is what happens when you overtrain at running: you keep running but you feel like your body doesn’t want to obey. It gets sore, becomes heavier and demotivates you to move on. In the end, your performance brings no results whatsoever, and your mood worsens.
Other exercise-related overtrain symptoms are:
- Inability to train at the usual level
- Overheating and excessive training
- Injuries, like muscle sprains, joint pain, and stress fractures
- Loss of enthusiasm for exercise. You have no desire to train (7).
What Are 6 Symptoms Of Overtraining?
A decrease in performance and loss of motivation are not the only symptoms you can get through excessive training. Here are the 6 major symptoms of overtraining that could impact overall health:
- Lack of appetite or weight loss. We are aware of the positive effects of caloric deficit for workouts. In other words, you need to drink and eat fewer calories than you burn. If you get more calories than you burn then you eliminate the chances to lose weight (2). Runners or weightlifters who train harder tend to lose their appetite, therefore, losing weight. Moreover, overtraining can negatively affect the digestive system, leading to diarrhea and constipation (7).
- Elevated heart rate. The signs of overtraining at running on heart rate are manifested in a slightly raised relaxed heart rate. To put it simply, you have an elevated heart rate when you simply wake up in the morning.
- Disturbed sleep. Among other signs of running at overtraining is a disturbance in sleep. When the stress hormones are in an imbalanced state, it gets harder for you to relax or enjoy high-quality sleep. The lack of normal sleep leads to mood swings and fatigue.
- Muscle pain and injuries become more frequent. Nagging muscle soreness and injuries occur when you put too much pressure on your muscles. They won’t stop unless you give your body recovery time.
- More frequent colds. One of the signs of overtraining in bodybuilding and running can be your susceptibility to viruses. The more you train without rest the more vulnerable to viruses your immune system becomes. This means you have more chances to catch a cold faster than the athlete who spends some time on recovery.
- More challenging workouts. Because of overall fatigue and soreness, typical exercises become more complex to perform. You will feel like you are working harder even though you stick to the usual rate. This is the consequence of body soreness and loss of motivation.
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How Do You Break From Overtraining?
There are many ways that help you reduce the overtraining syndromes running. There are 5 things you can do to break the overtraining cycle and enhance your performance.
- Finally rest. This is the first thing you must do if you want to get rid of any unbearable overtraining symptoms from running. Stop training for a certain period of time, and let your body fully recover. Usually, it takes from 4 to 12 weeks, depending on the sport and level of activity. If you rest it does not mean you need to only lie in bed and binge-watch Tv-shows. You still should commit to low-intensity aerobic exercises that keep you fit and healthy. Low-impact workouts boost endurance and build muscle strength (6).
- Treat yourself. When was the last time you had a rejuvenating massage in an aroma room? This is your chance to get one for an essential purpose. Go to a professional masseur or masseuse who can massage your most affected muscles. Choose a sport or deep-tissue massage to avoid injuries and relieve muscle tension. If a professional massage is not something you want to spend money on you can do it yourself. Self-massage with essential oils and muscle balm can help you experience relaxing feelings. How-and-cold therapy is also an option because a sauna, hot bath, or heating pad can soothe sore muscles.
- Eat well. Your body needs nutrients that fuel it with energy. Replenish the lost calories from each training so that you are no longer in an energy deficit.
- Avoid stress. The feeling of stress has a great impact on our body by slowing down the digestive system, decreasing immune activity, speeding up our breathing, and far more (8). Hence, the elimination of stress is important. Isolate yourself from the sources of stress. Yoga and meditation can balance stress levels. In addition, yoga speeds up the recovery from strenuous training.
- Talk to the doctor. Self-assistance is good but your doctor can create guidelines that get you back to training safely. Make sure you are sincere about your feelings since it will help the doctor identify the best ways to break from overtraining.
What To Eat To Recover From Overtraining?
Being a serious runner, you can go through periods in your training when you overdo it. Even professional runners, monitored by coaches, fall into the trap of pushing their bodies beyond their limits.
If you ever found yourself overtrained, recovery isn’t the only solution that guarantees to improve the situation. The types and amount of food you consume before and after your workouts can promote the recovery process. The right food choices can make you energetic and ready for new challenges. Want to find three simple, but effective nutrition changes for effective running overtraining recovery, keep on reading the article.
Increase The Caloric Intake
The overtrained runner should pay attention to the number of calories they are having in on a daily basis. The point is that runners take caloric deficency so seriously that they do not consume enough calories to fuel their daily expenditures. Usually, runners use a caloric deficit in order to lose weight, or perhaps just to be generally healthier. Therefore, the lack of calories makes the muscles weaker since they are not getting enough nutrients to recover.
If you feel lethargic and overtrained, then it’s important that you put your weight-loss purposes on hiatus for a couple of weeks and give your body the nutrients it needs to recover.
Eat Protein-Rich Food
Our body needs protein to stay healthy and work properly. Protein takes part in the processes that fuel energy and helps make antibodies that combat infections and illnesses (1). That means it is essential for overtrained runners to consume big amounts of lean protein. Protein consumption provides the important nutrients and amino acids needed for muscle repair.
You can find complete proteins in animal sources such as
- limited amounts of red meat.
If you feel slightly overtrained, consider adding tuna, salmon, and chicken to your menu. Such protein sources are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and iron.
The plant-based sources of protein are:
- beans, peas, legumes
You can combine animal sources with plant sources for better results.
Vegetarians need to combine protein sources to ensure they are getting the full amount of amino acids. For example, they can combine grains with dairy, or legumes, vegetables with soy or dairy, or nuts with legumes. When choosing the combination, make sure you are eating extra protein if you are overtraining.
Runners usually need 1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. In case of recovery after overtraining, you should rely on 2 grams per kilogram of your body weight.
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Don’t Forget About Nutrient-Dense Fruits And Vegetables
Fruits and veggies are a super food for overtrained sportsmen since they are sources of the essential vitamins and minerals which benefit muscle repair. Here is the list of nutrient-dense veggies and fruits:
- Brussels sprouts
- Beans (all varieties)
- Collard, mustard, & turnip greens
- Bok choy
- Bean sprouts
- Romaine lettuce
- Red peppers
- Carrot juice
- Tomatoes & tomato products
- Swiss chard
- Pomegranate juice
- Brazil nuts
- Seeds: sunflower, sunflower, sesame
Daily consumption of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables will fuel the proper functioning of the immune system, protecting you from chronic diseases. Most importantly, it will combat the signs of running overtraining.
In a nutshell, a combination of body rest and a recovery diet can help you ease your overtraining symptoms.
The Bottom Line
Running overtraining is the process during which the runner shoots for longer distances without proper muscle recovery. Runners are concerned with the 6 running signs of overtraining and how they can treat it. Among common running overtraining symptoms are fatigue, body soreness, weight loss, disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, and mood swings.
It is possible to eliminate overtraining signs through muscle rest, low-impact activities, stress reduction, and increased caloric intake.
Food rich in protein and nutrients promotes better digestion, fuels the body with energy, and aids in muscle recovery.
Runners are recommended to consult with their doctors in case of overtraining symptoms. A doctor can guide them through positive recovery activities and possible healthy diets to speed up the muscle healing process.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Benefits of Protein (2022, webmd.com)
- Caloric Deficit: What to Know (2021, webmd.com)
- Health Benefits of Running (2021, webmd.com)
- Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the overtraining syndrome: joint consensus statement of the European College of Sport Science and the American College of Sports Medicine (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Should you work out when sore? (2022, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Water Aerobics (2020, webmd.com)
- What to Know About Overtraining (2021, webmd.com)
- Why stress happens and how to manage it (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)