Monday, September 13, 2010

Overtraining and You

Type A personalities will increase their training until something backfires.”

So says running coach Julie Finagar in an article posted by the Wall Street Journal on September 7.

The article contends that many runners, especially first time marathoners, train too hard prior to getting to the start line of their race. Many people fear failure on race day (whether it be a DNF or not getting their PR) and literally run themselves into the ground.

Roughly 10% of athletes preparing for an endurance event are training too hard, estimates Jack Raglin, director of graduate studies at the Indiana University's department of kinesiology.  In fact of the hundreds of thousands of people who register for marathons, as many as 25% never make it to the start due to injuries. The good news is, 95% of those who do make it there, FINISH!!

To offset injuries, coaches recommend rest days, cross training and trail running (because it offers a lower impact alternative to asphalt and concrete). According to the article, a true sign of over-training is an intensifying obsession with performance and a lack of improvement despite putting in high mileage weeks and increasing intensity.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been a victim of overtraining.  And I’m pretty Type A. Shocking!  Right now I’m typing and cooking dinner and checking my stocks and worrying about my kids’ college funds. And running in place.

After my first marathon in January 2009 (during which I simply wanted to finish the race and had no care about time) I started to get competitive. I was craving the almighty BQ. I wanted to see constant improvement in my training runs (speed, endurance and frequency) and I sought a  PR at every race. Being a newer runner, I had the mentality that more was better.

I was plodding along at a decent clip feeling on top of the world when – BAM. A year ago I was stopped dead in my tracks with a stress fracture  - an overuse injury. It put me on my ass for several weeks and took me out of the running game for two months.

Let me tell you, there is nothing like being sidelined, having your feet stink from wearing that damn boot and driving the Target electric cart around the store to make you want to get smart about your training.

As I re-entered the world of running, I did so with caution and care. I religiously followed the ten percent rule and incorporated lots of cross training. I followed the Run Less, Run Faster plan, which had me running only three days per week (speed, tempo and long). Sure I wanted to stay healthy, but more than anything I wanted to keep running. It occurred to me that I wanted to continue to run for a very long time…I had visions of myself being one of five in my age group when I was 80 years old. Depends and all. You can’t get there if you’re beating up your body.  oldhagbethrisdon

 

And guess what? Only eight months after my stress fracture, I qualified for Boston!!

I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know we runners can be pretty hard on ourselves. Did we run enough mileage this week? Are we meeting our pace goals? Why can’t we get that stench out of our running shorts? I definitely fall into this category. In all honesty, I sometimes push a bit hard. Running calculators and training plans tell me to do my long runs between a 9:00 and 10:00 min/mile pace. For some reason, I always try to beat it. In the back of my head is: you can’t run that slow or you’ll never meet your marathon pace goal. I also run when body parts are hurting because I figure if it doesn’t slow me down or mess with my gait, I’m good. Probably a gamble.

Every once in awhile I get really Zen and  remember that I am enough even if I didn’t meet my running goals for the week. I am not completely and totally defined by those goals and I will probably do okay at my next race anyway.

No doubt that the recipe for training for and running a strong race includes determination, motivation, and putting an element of pressure on yourself. Without being a tad hard on yourself you probably wouldn’t crawl out of your warm bed and into your running clothes on your way to a 20 mile training run. But for God’s sake, find the balance. Don’t let it run and ruin your life. I believe there is a way to push yourself hard enough to test your limits and to be prepared without sacrificing your health.

Be honest. Are you training too hard? Not enough? Or just right? (Goldilocks reference).

43 comments:

  1. Overtraining!! Been there done that and hope to never be there again.I found out that your training is only as good as your recovery so I've got plenty of recovery factored in to my programs now. But I am my own worst enemy. I sometimes run too hard when I shouldn't and take too much notice of my Garmin when I should be listening to my body.

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  2. I m some where between not enough and good enough. :-)

    Julie Fingar is the race director for Way Too Cool 50k and AR50! She also wrote my groups's training plan for the ultras as well. Really cool lady.

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  3. I've gone through this same cycle. Picked up my running a lot, stress fracture, then later I was the same way training for a marathon- how the hell am I going to run a 9:10 pace during the marathon if I train at a 10:00 pace?? I still don't know because my first marathon had me wondering what the hell I was doing after mile 21 and I cared less and less about times. Right now I'm picking up mileage but probably a little too fast, even though 6 miles feels like it should be not much.. I have only gone over 3-4 miles a handful of times since the marathon. Okay sorry rambling, but this has been on my mind all day as I had to ice my shin today (I'm going to take off a few days, I swear, really..)

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  4. ummmm that opening sentence? soooooooooo me!! i keep telling myself that next race will be different. *sigh* someday i'll learn

    and thank you for putting that pic up! it brightened what had been a VERY long monday :)

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  5. I started training for this half marathon in order to make myself run less, if that makes any sense - I tend towards Type A-ism if I don't check myself. It's an exercise in both patience and listening to my body... some days my mind is clamouring for ten miles but my knees are begging for three. Right now it's a fine line between training too little and training too much, but I like to think I'm managing (thank goodness for low-impact cross-training).

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  6. I just did stumble upon your blog and I found this post really interesting. As a very very newbie runner I completely get the wanting to run and train every day.

    Even doing the very basic C25K program which is 3 days a week I find myself either taking to the street or even hoping on the treadmill on the off days to get another extra run in.

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  7. I'm feeling pretty confused about this right now. I don't want to push too hard and leave myself vulnerable to injury, but I know I have to effectively because the marathon I've signed up for just cut their finish time back to 5-1/2 hours. That's kinda scary for this first-timer. It seems there's a fine line between not hard enough and too hard.

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  8. yep, probably training too hard. running my 10th marathon next month and i've somehow convinced myself that i now need to run a full 26.2 for training. it's worked the past few times so hopefully this time is no different.

    it's a delicate balance but somehow we all try to push ourselves just shy of the breaking point. i guess we're just that hardcore!!

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  9. I've teetered on the brink of the big O (not orgasm in this case) just this summer. I also learned that what is usually a normal training load can become too much as other aspects of life become more stressful. Sounds simple but when you're locked on a running goal it's not readily apparent.

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  10. OMG!! I just got diagnosed with a stress fx. on my R foot, and to console myself, went shopping at Target in the old lady cart!

    You know, however, sitting on my backside watching trash TV can be therapeutic sometimes as well.

    Even with my fair amount of experience, I still ignored the warnings. Now I'm trying to turn this into a more positive experience and get back at my own speed.

    Run Happy!

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  11. Great post - I wrote a new post today and it has a similar theme - Enjoy running.
    I know that because of my past stress fracture - current age - and lack of bone density I need to be careful not to over train. I would LOVE to run every day. But know that I need to rest and I know that I run better after resting. Cross training gets tougher in the winter - and I have been slacking off on biking and I need to get back on my bike before winter comes to Wisconsin. I also need to get back to my yoga classes.

    thanks for the inspiration - tomorrow I am getting my yoga schedule set up and just might bike to work. ;-)

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  12. I'm bad about the 10% rule. I increase much too fast and end up with a recurring calf injury. I have the same feeling about the long run pace, too fast and thinking that it needs to be fast or I'll never do 26.2 at a decent rate. Thanks for the perspective.

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  13. Great post! I think I'm somewhere in between. I know I'm not overtrained, but I probably could be training a little harder too. It's definitely hard to find that balance and I think it takes time to figure out what your body can and cannot do.

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  14. I'd go with that trail running part and forget the asphalt altogether :-)) Is there something wrong with cooking and blogging at the same time...?

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  15. My over exertion comes from frustration. If I get a bad run in, I get pissed and push myself too hard next time. Great post Beth.

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  16. Terrific post! I just came to a realization 2 days ago that I'm NOT training hard enough.

    I thought the fact that I was merely completing the runs on my training plan meant that I was hardcore :) But I actually have not even been getting my heart rate to wear it should be while working out! And certainly not adding sprints.

    I've changed that for my last 2 runs and am really sore! I hope to figure out what it takes to push myself over the next few weeks.

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  17. What does training too hard mean? That is such a subjective term. Was Dean Karnazes "training too hard" when he ran 50 marathons in 50 days? His doctor cleared him after that episode and said he was as good as ever.

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  18. I have no idea! I have this thigh thing that's been bothering me since my half last march. I hurt myself at first because I really want to be an everyday runner, but my post baby body won't allow it. I need access to a good pool!!

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  19. For where I am in my life, just right. Of course I'd like to do more, but I'm really enjoying the path this time around. Riding and the occasional swim, along with chasing my kids, keep things interesting.

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  20. I overtrain constantly. In fact I'm taking today off because I can't remember the last time in the last week that my legs didn't wake up throbbing with soreness! Argh! Stupid Type A!

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  21. I am hard on myself even when I am not training for anything. On my easy runs (and now after injury all my runs are supposed to be easy) I have to keep myself from pushing too hard. Something in my head makes me want to do more and something in my Achilles tendon disagrees. That is how I kept re-injuring it. Makes no sense to me.

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  22. Man oh man - it's crazy how true you are. I WAS training for my first marathon coming up Oct 3rd and the last month I have had a thigh injury which has lead to a knee injury and 3 weeks away from my marathon I am realizing it is not going to happen. I am sure it is from over training and I am totally bummed. But I paid for the race so I am going to go and just run as far as I can just to get the experience. But I am really missing running right now!

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  23. Mike G - Yes it is subjective in the sense that overdoing it is different for everyone depending on your fitness level, biomechanics and personal make-up. DK is a phenomenon. You only have to look at his physiological stats to know that. 99.9% of us average Joes are not made like him. You know you're training too hard is when your body pushes back with fatigue, injury, stress and illness. That simply doesn't happen to DK. But it happens to most of the rest of us. Read running blogs and the comments here to get the gist of that. I'm guessing if you don't know what overtraining is, you've never done it.

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  24. I don't think I'm overtraining as a newer runner but I'm definitely a Type-A personality and sometimes have to try to hold myself back. It has become slightly obsessive so I can certainly see how I could get there at some point!

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  25. This is something I'm trying to be more aware of as I take my training to new levels. I want to be stronger and faster, but I want to stay healthy and keep running more than anything. It's definitely hard to find the line sometimes, but reminders like this post are a big help!

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  26. I just found your blog a few days ago and have been busy reading recent posts. You put a smile on this runner's face! Not to mention make me feel waaaaaaay more normal about the ridiculous things that happen to me when I run!

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  27. weird...I was going to blog about this today. Only it could be called "Undertraining and you"...GOD I'm lazy!

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  28. OK, I want your legs.

    Next - so I shouldn't have run 13 yesterday with my marathon Saturday. I'm such a loser. I need zen. or whatever they call it.

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  29. oh man I totally am this post... part of my issue is that I really enjoy running, so I don't want to do a 3 day plan...but then again I know I can't run hard every day and actually get bettter...cause I've been doing that and it ain't workin

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  30. Thank you for this post!! I think (well, am hoping) that my problems right now, and having to sit out a couple weeks without running is due to running too much and pushing too hard for 2 weeks straight... I'm hoping its just my body telling me that I need to rest! Thank you for reminding me that less is more!

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  31. I really felt like I was under training as it seemed like everyone else runs way more long runs than me. I went through all my stats with my coaches and then factored in the spin+core I do...and feel better. I run 4 days a week and 2 spin+core with 1 LSD, 1 tempo, 1 speed and 1 easy/hard run.
    Unless they come up with another day in the week...I will take this.

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  32. Runners will always overtrain. Every runner I know goes too fast on their slow days. It will never change. I'm headed out for a too fast, slow run now.

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  33. Everyone over trains, it's just a part of life.

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  34. i couldn't agree more! i'm training smart now. which some weeks is more, some is less. but the important thing is that i'm being smart and listening to my body.

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  35. Great post! I'm trying to train smart - ahem - but think I might have over done it just a tad. I've got a bone spur on my left foot that's sat me down for two weeks and I'm hoping I can still run my first marathon on Halloween.

    Winks & Smiles,
    Wifey

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  36. Great post! I was just thinking about this and there happened to be a quiz of sorts in the October edition of Runner's World (page 58) to access whether or not you're too competitive. I rated as "Perfectly Competitive". However, at this very moment I am nursely scabs on my girlies bits because my Body Glide completely wore off at around mile 8 of my last long run. I knew it was happening but I kept going. There was nothing I could do about it and I was 2.5 miles from home. AND I am falling asleep on my feet because I couldn't sleep last night because of the anxiety attacks I was having because of the overdose of Sports Beans and Shot Bloks.

    I take my resting days very seriously and I really, I'm not obsessive. It's unreasonable to do what we do and not expect ANY pain or discomfort. Right?

    Our bodies are pretty good about telling us when we've overdone it. Just gotta listen. I'm listening.

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  37. The suggested pace for my LRs on the Training Plan always nags me, too. This cycle, after moving into the high altitude, I've tried to stick to it pretty closely and remind myself that it's more time on my feet. Secretly, I'm a little worried it's slowing my overall pace...BUT, I'm not injured and I'm feeling good on LRs, so, I guess something going the way it should?

    Either way, your point of view always puts things in perspective. An injury comeback + BQ is inspiring!

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  38. very great post!!! :) i couldn't agree more!

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  39. I've been running a billion years and still think the more is better approach....I know for a fact if you can stay healthy is get in the loads of miles, it makes you that much more stronger, and faster. I guess it's just a matter of what your body can handle, and how far you want to go.

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  40. Been there, done that, and I am doing it again -- RIGHT NOW :( Big boo-hoo over here.

    Now I am in rest mode and going crazy.

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  41. great post...just what I needed. Love those legs in that pic...hello motivation.

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  42. I’ve been good this year and do things just right. I can see the benefits already. Keeping it that way is not easy. The better you do and feel, the faster you want to run. The key is to be selective in which runs to push it.

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  43. I worry about the same things. I'm no where near your mileage or pace. But at times I wonder if I'm pushing too hard, or not hard enough. I know there is a balance out there, and I'm searching for it. I like what you said about being enough even if we don't meet all the goals. Have enjoyed reading your blog!

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