Last week I talked about realizing I had reached a limit in my journey of running during pregnancy. We all at some point reach limits; it’s just a part of running and training hard.
I can name two specific instances where I have reached a limit while running. One of course was this past week, but the other happened almost exactly a year ago.
I was training for the Chicago Marathon and realized that my body was not responding as it had during other training cycles. I thought it was the heat, humidity, or just the fatigue that comes along with marathon training but I quickly discovered it was more than that. Burnt out is a very real thing and can be quite dangerous if you don’t recognize it quickly.
The question that I struggled with and that I’ve see others struggle with is – How do you know when you’re overtrained or are heading toward burnout?
It can be a tricky thing and sometimes the symptoms and signs of burn out often are disguised as just simply fatigue. Let’s face it, when you are training for a marathon fatigue is often a very common thing! However; I’ve slowly begun to see after now having it twice (once before pregnancy and once after) some of the signs and warnings.
You begin to not be able to hit your workouts (repeatedly).
Bad workouts happen. You aren’t going to hit every workout you try to in training, but one thing I have noticed is when I’ve been heading towards burn out I am repeatedly not hitting the workouts. I take ample recovery time and my body is still not even able to get close to the goal pace or distance.
Slowing down on easy runs
Easy runs are supposed to be easy, but you typically know what your easy pace hovers around. Just like with workouts – if you begin to see yourself slowing down on easy days consistently without even trying it could be a sign of burn out in your future.
Running becomes an absolute chore.
Let’s face it – running isn’t always fun. Yes, I said it. This is coming from someone who really does love to run. The two times I have been burned out (or headed that way) however running became a burden to me. I dreaded having to walk out the door and run again. If it becomes consistent to where you can’t even enjoy any running, it may be time to step back.
The Runner’s High is non-existent.
Like I said above, running isn’t always going to be rainbows and butterflies. One thing that is consistent with most every run is that I feel great when I am finished. Sometimes I’m tired, or worn down, but overall I feel better once my run has happened. During my periods of burn out – there wasn’t any “runner’s high” anymore. I just felt exhausted.
A consistent heart rate increase
You don’t have to be someone who tracks their heart rate religiously so notice this either. My easy runs became even harder and my heart rate would be through the roof so fast. Even when I was jogging it felt so hard and my body just could not seem to keep it at a normal.
Extreme difficulty recovering
Muscle soreness is a part of the game, but it shouldn’t be after every single run. It also shouldn’t linger in your body for many days after. Increased muscle soreness and your body’s inability to recover as it used to can also be a sign of impending burn out.
As you can tell, some of these signs are physical and some are mental just as running itself is. However; they both play a large part in your ability to run and train. In both instances of burn out for myself, I reached a breaking point where it is undeniable what was happening. The key is to recognize the signs of burn out before you reach that point.
It’s important to realize that burn out just doesn’t come from one run. It is from a history of overtraining and putting your body through too much stress. It happens to even the best of us, so don’t worry if it happens to you! The important thing is that you realize and recognize it before it goes to far.
Now that you feel like you may be on your way to burn out – what do you do?
This can vary depending on how over trained and burned out you are and how long it has been going on for. Some find that simply taking a few days off or running only easy for a couple weeks do the trick. Some people find that it requires completely stopping running for a period of time.
The key is to give your body the rest it needs to come back. It’s not the end of the world, but the longer you pound your body into the ground the longer the recovery period can take.
It’s also important to rule out any physical health conditions or deficiencies in the body as they can cause many of the same symptoms. It may be a great time to go to your Doctor for some routine blood work and a physical.
The final thing I want to say is, it’s okay to take a break from running. I know coming from me that may sound crazy, but sometimes it is just what your body needs. After I ran my first two marathons I took a good 3 month break and didn’t run at all. While I am in no way recommending you do this as well, it just goes to you show you it happens and sometimes it is for the best. I came back from that period motivated and ready to do things the right way to avoid burn out in the future.
Have you ever gone through a period of burn out or overtraining?