How to Spot (and Avoid) Overtraining and Burnout

Photo courtesy kickittraining.wordpress.com

Whether you’re a new runner or a seasoned athlete, you’re bound to encounter overtraining or burnout at some point during your quest to achieving your goals.

But, do you know how to spot (and avoid!) this problem of overtraining and burnout? You might not even recognize the subtle signs that your body is giving up on you.

I loved Runner’s World’s recent article “10 Signs That You Need a Rest Day” because it addresses the many pitfalls of overtraining that even seasoned runners and athletes encounter.

Take Olympic runner and 5-minute-mile marathoner Ryan Hall, whose rise to stardom started as a high school runner. Many runners suffer from emotional burnout way before the physical one hits. For Ryan, pushing his body too hard resulted in taking himself out of the Chicago Marathon in 2011.

Ryan Hall admits in the Runner’s World article “I love to push my body,” he says. “Recovery is the hardest part of training for me.”

To combat the problem, as the article states, Ryan turned to the program Restwise that helped him track his sleep patterns, heart rate and other key stats to measure the impact of his workout routine on his body.

I don’t think many of us have to result to that, but overtraining is a problem that any zealous athlete, gym rat or weekend warrior can prevent before the burnout sets in.

In my cross country days, we ran six days a week, but our training runs varied. We had a medium run on Monday (4-5 miles), a 30-minute to 3-mile tempo run on Tuesdays (the day before a race), race day Wednesday, Thursday medium run (4-5 miles) and Friday sprints or another medium run. Saturday mornings were long runs of up to 6 or 7 miles for the girls.

Sundays were always our “rest” days, but when you’re a competitive athlete and excited about your goal, it’s often hard to stay down and not do anything. And honestly, you don’t have to.

Personally, that’s where I’m a big proponent of cross training. Go rollerblading, do some laps in the pool or practice meditation or yoga. Give your body some rest in a different way if you are absolutely itching to get out there and do something. Just avoid an intense, pavement-pounding activity that will cause more harm than good.

Bottom line, stick with the motto “variety is the spice of life.” By varying up your training and listening to your body, you’ll avoid emotional and physical burnout so you can enjoy a regular exercise or running schedule free of frustrating setbacks.

Give yourself a “rest” day. Your Monday workout (and race!) will thank you.

-JP

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