Whether training for a 5K or a marathon, avoiding overtraining is a key to success. Many of us have been taught since our youth to always “go the extra mile” in everything we do, whether it is helping others, working hard, or anything else in life. However, when it comes to distance running, going the extra mile is not always a good idea.
In the most simplistic terms, overtraining is training too hard for your body to properly recover from workouts.
From an injury standpoint, if your body is repeatedly pushed without adequate recover, your chances for injury are dramatically increased.
In addition, runners who are overtraining find themselves struggling during training runs and often become discouraged and burned out because their performance does not seem to be improving despite all their effort. In fact, the runner may feel the need to train even harder since their performance does not seem to be improving which makes their risk for injury even greater.
Here are a few simple ways to help avoid overtraining:
• Stick to your training schedule. If you feel really strong at the end of your run, resist the urge to run further than the scheduled distance. Training programs are designed to help you safely and gradually increase distance over time. While you may feel god on this run, you may find the next run(s) to be more difficult and less enjoyable if you overtrain on the previous run.
• Allow your body to recover from each workout. Ultimately, each training run is intended to increase your mileage – gradually – and a large part of training is recovery. If your body does not properly recover from one workout to the next, then you are gradually building your chances of injury. To help your body recover, have a snack containing carbohydrates and protein within 30-minutes following each run. Also, be sure to allow time between workouts. Elite and advanced distance runners can safely train multiple time each day (many train 2-3 times in a single day!). For most of us, we need to allow 24 to 48 hours between each run. For most of us, we need to allow 24 to 48 hours between each run.
• Be able to talk while you run. For example, if you are making a 7-mile run and find yourself breathing heavily at mile-3, then you may be running too fast or training too hard during this particular run. As a general rule, you should be able to talk to someone while running and to breathe comfortably.
• Heart rate monitor training can allow you to measure the intensity of your workout and help prevent overtaining. Training runs should be at 70% to 80% of your maximal heart rate.
Remember, training to build mileage takes time and does not happen overnight. Stay smart and train safe by avoiding overtraining.