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Assess your risk of overtraining to avoid burning out

One part physical and another part psychological, overtraining is a period of prolonged fatigue, decreased performance and a general loss of motivation for running and training


If you find yourself struggling to get through an easy run or lack the motivation to even try that scheduled track workout, you may at risk of overtraining.

RELATED: Could I have overtraining syndrome?

Overtraining is caused by periods of intense exercise–such as during the weeks and months necessary for running a half or marathon–without allowing for sufficient recovery. Oftentimes, it occurs following an increase in training volume such as mileage or intensity, which then requires an even greater emphasis on proper recovery.

What’s the damage of overtraining?

Overtraining can present as multiple signs and symptoms including generalized tiredness, fatigue, muscle soreness or weakness, sleep disturbances, mood changes, weight loss or gain (caused by a loss or gain of appetite), elevated blood pressure and/or resting heart rate, among others.

Oftentimes, a decreased ability (or desire) to perform hard efforts such as workouts or in races becomes the most obvious sign that you may be overtraining. A sudden or dramatic loss of interest and motivation to train is another clear indication that you may be “burning out”–a common term to describe overtrainedtrined–and require a break.

Am I at risk and what should I do about this condition?

While those in periods of hard training who constantly push themselves day after day without taking time off may be at the greatest risk of overtraining, any runner who doesn’t take their rest and recovery seriously is at risk. Being diligent about one’s recovery and taking extra time to rest after hard efforts is often the surest way to avoid overtraining. It’s also important to get your training paces right which means keeping your easy runs easy and your hard runs at a hard but controlled pace.

RELATED: Junk miles: Are “easy” runs sabotaging your training?

If and when overtraining occurs, it can sometimes take weeks and even months to fully recover. In some severe cases, overtraining can impact the body’s nervous, endocrine and immune systems leaving one vulnerable to physical illness and injury as well as mood changes, anxiety and depression.

Daily stresses not related to running (think at home and at work), poor nutrition and a lack of quality sleep can also contribute to overtraining by tipping the balance of stress and recovery into the danger zone.

The best way to beat overtraining is to avoid it in the first place. When in hard training, pay extra attention to how you feel before, during and after every run and workout–consider writing it down to keep track–and don’t be afraid to back off and take things easy (or rest entirely) until you start to feel good again. One bad workout or long run is usually not a problem, but a string of continuous sub-par efforts might mean you are pushing too hard and need some extra rest. Skipping a hard session or long run when you know you aren’t “feeling it” will almost always pay off, while opting to struggle through it will often do more harm than good. Listen to your body and learn when to push and when to pull back.