Guest Post By Nate Vandervest Running Coach, CSCS, CES

A very misunderstood part of training is overtraining.  This isn’t something that only happens to the elite runner it can happen to anyone.  This usually occurs after a period of time that a runner really pushes their limits.  The reason it is so hard to diagnose is that the signs and symptoms are very vague.  What I hope to do is give you the knowledge to make smart decisions if you ever have any of these symptoms.

Runners that over-train often mention the same things when asked “how do you feel?”  The first thing they usually say is that “my legs are heavy” or something like that.  Other symptoms include increased resting heart rate, irritability, increased thirst at night, change in sleep patterns, losing the will to compete, and decreased performance.  Decreased performance is the main indicator of overtraining.  When someone is over-trained the rate of illness and injury also go up because the body is working so hard to catch up that the immune system is compromised.  Injury then occurs due to the constant break down of the body coupled with the lack of recovery time.

This becomes a slippery slope.  If you had a bad race you tend to think, “I must work harder.”  In this scenario that is that worst thing that a runner could do.  If you are putting in more and more effort but you are not seeing the results on race day then you should step back and look at your training plan closely.  Once someone is mildly over-trained it will take a full week of not running at all to recover.  For more serious cases it will take even longer.

This is where a strategic training plan is worth its weight in gold.  The plan will take you through multiple phases of training to stress the body into getting better.  Periods of building up and then recovering should be the norm.  The fine line comes between what running coaches call over-reaching and over-training. One is really good and one is really bad.  A good program will have you pushing your limits for just long enough to get huge gains in your running ability.  A not-so-good plan will push you right over the edge of the cliff and into overtraining mode

The take away from all of this is to listen to your body.  Pay attention to little aches and pains.  Write down on a calendar if you are not sleeping well or have any of the other symptoms.  On the flip side don’t confuse a bad race with overtraining either.  Sometimes it just isn’t your day.  If you listen to your body and have a good plan, most of the time you will have a great day!

Train smarter, not harder.


Always Running,

Nate Vandervest

Running Coach, CSCS, CES


Nate is a running coach and strength coach that specializes in running assessments, strength training and personalized running programs.  For more information contact [email protected]

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