There can be many signs and forms of over-training. In my case, I was hit with a mental fatigue…it was a slow creep up on me that worsened with each of the many back to back races I attempted…in all too short a time.
Usually, typical signs of over training can include inability to sleep or relax, no matter how tired and worn out you feel. While I wouldn’t say I was physically over-training in my own case, I definitely feel like I wore myself out with the stress of constantly having so much pressure to race so frequently to try and place in the BC Timex Series, and to need to reach certain times in each, with aims to always place top 3. This causes a different form of fatigue, it’s more of an emotional wear, but the end result is the same.
I often had insomnia, mostly occurring before races, or important runs. Physically, my body often felt fine and fully recovered post-race/run, and this may have been due to the fact that I have not once this year raced to my full capacity, or my full potential. Then the next race day would roll around, and mentally, I was just not prepared to be there. I still believe that this little condition was largely caused and influenced by my most negative racing experience ever in the Vancouver Marathon this year. Of course this is all self-analysis, but, I do think that by racing so many times in a row in this past two months, that I was not giving myself enough time to recover mentally. I just didn’t have the gusto to push when the going got tough. I was drained from the enormous effort and expectations I placed on myself week in and week out on these races. I progressively ran worse and worse, with each race.
Deteriorating performance is also a common sign of over-training. As is an elevated heart rate that just won’t quit. So much so that at times it may have kept me lying awake at night, obsessing, and stressing over the fact that I could not calm down. All in all, this lead to another very poor and disappointing performance in my last race, the Scotiabank Half Marathon, and I thought I would write a somewhat more informative post on healthy training in lieu of another sad race report.
More common to the world of over-training are the physical symptoms and signs, like physical fatigue, muscle soreness, slow recovery after workouts and poor performance to the point of even being unable to complete some training sessions. Quite often runners don’t even notice these signs, as we often run tired, and accept that it is just part and parcel with the competitive running realm. In the case of over-training though the body is already in a weakened state and this is exactly when injuries are more likely to develop. Sometimes it might seem that some kind of phantom pain or even a sickness will make itself a sudden nuisance just to physically force you to recognize that your body needs a break. As tough as it can be, as any obsessed runner can relate, sometimes taking a little breather is going to do the body more good than harm.
Some other quick signs and symptoms of over-training include:
- Compromised immune system / frequent colds or flus
- Heart palpitations
- Increased resting heart rate
- Decreased muscular strength
- Chronic soreness
- Increased incidence of injuries
- Decreased appetite
- Moodiness/ irratability
And the big one that I noticed most myself: Loss of competitive drive and enthusiasm.
My lack of motivation mid race(s) made me aware that I wanted and needed a bit of a break. When my coach suggested I take a short breather, I was actually almost relieved. Normally this kind of suggestion to me would be met with severe resistance, argument and crafty manipulations to try and get my way to train right through. Another sure sign I needed a break: it took me 3 days before I even felt like I WANTED to go for a run. And when I did…I enjoyed it, a nice positive change already.
Always be careful to train smart and watch for signs of fatigue and injury, listen to your body and recover well. I am already starting to look forward to training again. Though I don’t yet feel the urge to jump into another race any time too soon.