Signs of Overtraining

It is easy to blame below par performance on overtraining, but it is not always that simple. It could be the opposite and a great period of performance and training could mean that a meltdown is just around the corner.
This weekend, I got within a second of my all time Coventry Parkrun PB, set in 2011 when I was doing a lot of track work, treadmill intervals, the Coventry course was flat and about 100m short. It was also a day with 3 other people to race with. After a few good training weeks, I thought I was almost back to pre London running form.
But….then you realise that you are not as young as you used to be, you manage work and training and a few things catch up with you. Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to the dark world of overtraining.
Backing up a race and training run with another half marathon race at the first ever Rugby Half Marathon today was a step too far. Although it started well, it could possibly be my worst ever run. But the objective for a race these days is to run as hard as possible for the distance and use as another high intensity training session. I’m not one for turning up at a race and just running in a pack to tag along knowing that I could just go ahead and win. Even if not in contention, a race is just to run as hard as I can otherwise I may as well go and train.
The last 7 days has been 4 races, a 26k tempo run, two 10 mile high cadence training sessions and one easy run. Add into that getting up at 5am every morning to stretch (legs not 3rd leg) then swim, get through the work day and run in the evening in what has been a pretty hot week. The last few weeks have taken their toll and I’ll submit to the fact that I’ve over trained.
It has not been high volume, considering I’ve done 500 mile cycling weeks, not lack of sleep or food but probably just too much intensity, too much BBQ food and too many “odd beers”
This triggers my thoughts on what to do when this condition comes along as its as much a mental battle as physical.
A few possible signs of overtraining
  • Persistent muscle soreness- Especially if it normally goes away after a tough session
  • Elevated resting heart rate. Worth monitoring for a week and checking every morning on waking. 10 beats higher could mean illness or fatigue.
  • Minor illnesses such as coughs, colds or even skin issues
  • Increased awareness of niggles and minor injuries if these start to play up
  • Irritability
  • Low mood or lack of interest in training
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased appetite or more cravings for junk food
  • Over confidence or sense of an extraordinary performance coming soon

What you can do about it?

1) Don’t read anything into a poor performance or sudden drop in form. If you tried to run as hard as you could, great. If you gave up…even better, you saved yourself the misery of analysing the end result. Giving up on a session is not always a sign of mental weakness but a sign of wisdom to know when to stop.

2) Sleep. Get sleep when you can, but most importantly, get good quality sleep. Avoid late night caffeine, alcohol and sweet foods. Ditch the phone or ipad and replace with either a book, audiobook or relaxation music.

3) Stretch. An hour of stretching, pilates, yoga, foam rolling or simple core exercises will keep the exercise habit but without the intensity. Even better is to do this at a gym to avoid any home distractions.

4) Eat more protein. In fact just eat clean food. Make sure you get vits and mins from proper food but cut down on the processed carbs and ear more natural proteins. Milk, fish, nuts, eggs, meat…all good. Cut out alcohol, sugar, or anything processed for a week. 

5) Drink loads of water. The more the better. Keep the wee clean unless you drink beetroot juice. Exchange 50% of your coffee or tea intake for council pop.

6) Replace training sessions with lower impact such as rowing, swimming, walking or cross trainers