Going the Extra Mile or Overtraining?

Are you going the extra mile or running down the road to ruin?  This is a question that you must ask yourself periodically.  Too much of a good thing can hurt you.  In this case, running too many high mileage runs and/or speed workouts without adequate rest could mean that you get weaker and slower.  Worse yet, serious injuries can happen when you overtrain.

How much rest is enough?    Runners at all levels are susceptible to overtraining.  Hopefully, you have already realized that going hard every day is bad.  It gets more complicated when you decide how much to cut back on your “easy” days.  What does it look like when you are taking it easy enough?

Here are some basic guidelines:

Alternate tough training days with very easy, short runs.  Your pace should be at least 60-90 seconds slower per mile than your race pace.  The mileage on your short runs can vary between 1/4 and 1/2 of the distance of your one weekly extra-long run.   Schedule a day off each week.  Some recommend taking the day off after a significant tempo run, which includes at least half of the distance at race-pace.

What are the signs of overtraining?    By the time you get a stress fracture, it is far too late.  There are over 130 symptoms that can be associated with overtraining, which makes it quite complicated.  One of the earliest signs of overtraining, how3ever, is the runner’s psychological state.  It is common to become irritable after a tough workout, but this should only last a day or two.

Thankfully, Dr. Jack Raglan has created a method of screening yourself on an ongoing basis to check for overtraining.  This questionnaire can be found at the end of this article at www.runnersworld.com.

Take this quiz once a week–or once a day during periods of hard training.  A score of 40 or more means you should rest more and run less.  A score of 15 or less suggests you’re balancing your training and recovery well.  A score that falls in the middle isn’t of immediate concern, but should be monitored. “Look for rapid changes,” Raglin says. “If your score suddenly skyrockets, it’s time to take a break.”

1) How is your mood today?

Very, very good (-2 points)
Very good (-1 point)
Good (0 points)
Average (1 point)
Bad (3 points)
Very bad (5 points)
Very, very bad (7 points)

 2) How many hours did you sleep last night?

More than nine (-1 point)
Eight or nine (0 points)
Seven (1 point)
Five to six (3 points)
Less than five (5 points)

3) Last night I slept:

Same as normal (0 points)
One hour more than normal (1 point)
Two or more hours more than normal (3 points)
One hour less than normal (1 point)
Two hours less than normal (3 points)
Three or more hours less than normal (5 points)

 4) Have you been sick the past week?

Yes (5 points)
No (0 points)

 5) How would you rate yesterday’s workout?

Very, very easy (-3 points)
Very easy (-1 point)
Easy (0 points)
Average (1 point)
Hard (3 points)
Very hard (5 points)
Very, very hard (7 points)

6) How do your muscles feel?

Very, very good (-3 points)
Very good (-1 point)
Good (0 points)
Tender, but not sore (1 point)
Sore (3 points)
Very sore (5 points)
Very, very sore (7 points)

7) Do your legs feel “heavy”?

No (0 points)
A little (1 point)
Somewhat (3 points)
Very (7 points)


If you even begin to suspect that you might be suffering from overtraining, the smart move is proper rest.  When in doubt, take an extra day or two off.  If your issues persist, however, check with a doctor or other medical professional.

Conclusion:  Run hard, rest hard, and stay hydrated!

Happy Running!


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