5 Signs You're Overtraining

I have a confession.

Twice now I've broken my running streak this month. Okay, actually it was three times. Three times!

The first time I skipped because I was going to run first thing in the morning and then run again that night, so that's why I'm not counting it as "skipped" - I'd say it's just "deferred." 😉

The second time I skipped because I ran 14.61 miles over three legs for the Tuna Run 200 and I needed a day for sleep and recovery after the race.

The third time I skipped because my body NEEDED some rest. A running streak is tough on your body, especially when it includes training for a half marathon, an endurance relay race, and lots of soccer games. While I've always felt great when I finally get outside for a run, it's also important to listen to my body and know when to take it easy. And this week? My body has been SCREAMING at me to take it easy.

Of course I didn't listen to my body: I ran 13 miles this morning! But I'm not going to do anything more than that and I'm going to take it easy over the next few days because I've got 5 signs of overtraining that my body is using to tell me to TAKE IT EASY (forreal though):

1) Tiredness

Well, duh, but this sort of tired is more than just "I did a hard workout so I need a nap" kinda tired. This is like non-stop jet lag kinda tired. This is "sleep deprivation in the middle of college exams" kinda tired. This is "I feel like I was hit by a train" kinda tired. This is "I just got a good night's sleep and I'm still exhausted" kinda tired. This is "I seriously need a rest day" kinda tired.

Feeling like you've been hit by a train? You might be overtraining.

2) Insomnia

The worst part of the overtraining tiredness is the insomnia. You'd think I would sleep like a baby to make up for all the tiredness, but I'm finding I'm tossing and turning in bed before falling asleep. Burning the midnight oil unnecessarily? No thanks!

Burning the midnight oil and can't sleep when you go to bed? You might be overtraining.

3) Injuries and Petty Pains

Knock on wood but I have yet to have a running injury that knocks me out of activity for more than a few days, but running every day has brought out these random joint and muscle pains that are just persistent enough to be irritating. I'm not worried about these injuries, but it would be nice to ease up and let my joints and muscles recover.

4) Feeling sick

Excessive exercise (heh) can actually suppress your immune system, and with flu season coming up I want to make sure my immune system is strong and vigilant. I've been doing pretty well with fall allergies (I suspect the extra time spent outside has helped me better tolerate fall allergens), but it's worth giving my immune system some time to recover to keep me safe from flu, colds, and other irritations and infections.

No amount of oranges can save your immune system if you're immunosuppressed.

5) Emotional stress

Physical stress can increase hormonal levels, specifically cortisol (which is a stress hormone and one of the causes of immunosuppression). Increased stress hormone levels don't just go down after workouts: that stress stays with you for days and can influence your mood and your response to other stresses. And having a non-stop fight or flight response? No bueno. I've been seeing my mood affected in little ways, most noticeably the other day when I was climbing and the entire time I felt tense and panicky (well, moreso than usual) trying to get up the wall. 

So what's the lesson here?

Take a dang rest day. Running streak or no I need to make sure I'm training for the long-term. I'm not bashing running streaks: I think it's been fantastic and I love having the motivation to get out there and run everyday, but when you're actively stressing your body for a new PR or different activity then you need to make sure you budget time and energy for recovery.

Have you ever experienced the effects of overtraining? Let me know in the comments!


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