The only real cure for overtraining is a long rest, followed by a gradual buildup of training intensity. Overtraining is like digging a hole. The longer it goes on, the deeper the hole and the longer it takes to recover. A three-week layoff from hard training might be enough to remedy a relatively mild case of OTS. Some severe cases can require as much as three months' rest [source: Runbritain.com].
Prevention is clearly the best route. Plan a workout routine that's within your current capacity, depending on your fitness, age and any recent injuries. Make sure you ramp up your distance and intensity gradually. Balance work and rest: Schedule a rest day once a week, and each month take a week in which you reduce your training by 30 to 50 percent [source: Hadfield].
Don't schedule hard workouts on successive days -- alternating heavy and light training will give you the best results. Incorporate cross training into your program. Things like swimming, cycling and stretching help build fitness while taking the stress off your running muscles.
It's a good idea to train by effort rather than just calculating your distance and time [source: Hadfield]. You'll need a heart-rate monitor. Determine the best training based on your current level of fitness. If you find you're maintaining the same heart rate but your times are increasing, it's time to cut back and rest.
Eating well can help head off OTS. Your calorie intake must keep up with training level -- as you run more, eat more. Running can help you lose weight, but don't try to drop the pounds too quickly. Eat a snack or small meal within 30 minutes of a hard workout to give your body the nourishment it needs [source: Sinclair]. Make sure you drink enough water before and during training.
Get plenty of sleep. You may find that you need extra sleep during periods of heavier training. Keep in mind that resting is really part of your training. Don't skimp on it.
These preventive steps will help you to avoid the problems that come with overtraining. Just as important, they'll help keep running a rewarding and enjoyable activity for years to come.
Move on to find out more about running and ways to avoid overtraining.