To avoid overtraining in running, look for early signs and take steps to modify your workout schedule. Overtraining is a syndrome defined by a collection of symptoms rather than one specific ailment.
There is no definitive test for overtraining. Some athletes show hormonal imbalances, including an excess of the stress hormone cortisol, which can be revealed by blood tests [source: Maffetone]. But these expensive tests are not usually the best way to know when you're experiencing OTS. Instead, look for a cluster of symptoms that do not go away quickly.
The physical symptomsof overtraining start with how you feel when you run. Do your legs often feel heavy? Do you become fatigued more quickly? Has your performance during workouts been declining? Have you failed to improve your times over the past few races? All of these indications can point toward overtraining syndrome.
Overtraining may show up after your workouts. The common soreness or muscle ache that follows a workout doesn't go away. You fail to recover as quickly between workouts. Another common symptom of overtraining is frequent injuries. Aches and pains are common among runners, but if you can't seem to get over one injury before you have another, you may be overtraining.
A lack of appetite or weight loss may be a clue to overtraining. Some runners find that they feel clumsy or awkward. A general fatigue you can't shake should set off alarm bells that you may be suffering from OTS.
One symptom that's often overlooked is more frequent colds and upper respiratory infections. Overtraining can affect your immune system, and a cold that you have trouble getting over should alert you to the possibility that you're overtraining.
Psychological symptoms can also point to overtraining. A common one is the loss of enthusiasm for running. Workouts become a chore, not something you look forward to. You don't get any pleasure out of racing. It's just not fun anymore.
That loss of enthusiasm might carry over to other activities. You show signs of depression and mood swings. You become tense and irritable, have trouble relaxing and suffer from insomnia. All of these can point toward overtraining.
OTS is not something runners should take lightly. On the next page you will learn some of the dangers of overtraining.