Every "Rocky" fan is familiar with the soundtrack-laden montages of Rocky Balboa getting ready for a fight. He sweats, strains and endures one painful workout after another. His efforts, of course, bring him peak fitness and success. But in real life, that's only half the story. Unfortunately, many runners either ignore or simply don't know this truth: Physical adaptations take place over time and require patience, restraint and regular windows of recovery.
Novice and advanced runners are encouraged to follow the 10 percent rule, which states you shouldn't increase your running mileage by more than 10 percent from one week to the next. If you currently run 30 miles a week, it would be a mistake to jump to 50 miles the following week. You may get away with it initially, but later you'll find yourself sick, injured, unmotivated or all of the above [sources: Morris, Klion].
Understand also that overtraining is a relative term. A novice runner who is logging 20 miles a week can be overtraining, while an elite marathoner who runs 125 miles a week may be operating fully within his or her present capabilities. If you're feeling lethargic, irritable, or consistently sore, reduce your training load until the symptoms disappear [source: Aschwanden].
You've undoubtedly heard the maxim "no pain, no gain" but it's only partially accurate. Yes, there is discomfort involved with running (elevated heart rate, increase in body temperature, burning muscles) but true pain should be heeded. One way to measure the difference between discomfort and pain is in your running stride. If the pain you're feeling - - say, from a stabbing sensation in the shins -- forces you to alter your running form, you need to stop and seek medical help [source: Mann].
Keep in mind, your body doesn't actually adapt to training while you're training. It adapts during rest and recovery. Intense and consistent exercise without rest and recovery (that means 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night during heavy training) makes you susceptible to injury [source: Morris]. Many running coaches also subscribe to the hard-easy theory of training. It means that typically you should follow an intense day of training with an easier day. For example, a day of speed work at the track might be followed by a day consisting of a leisurely jog.