You’ve probably heard of common injuries like plantar fasciitis, shin splints, achilles tendonitis, ITBS, or stress fractures. Some of you may have even experienced one or more of those injuries while training for a race. But one of the lesser talked about side effects of training hard for extended periods of time is training burnout.
Training burnout can be caused by quite a few different factors, and it generally manifests itself as physical or mental fatigue. Many times both. Every run seems a little bit harder than it should, and you start to wonder if all the training you’ve been doing was worth it.
This past week, after one of the best months of training I have had in a few years, I crashed hard physically and mentally. My legs didn’t want to move and I was struggling to finish short runs. It didn’t take long for my head to fill with doubts, and I started to question all of my training. It was hard to look back on this side of winter and wonder if all the runs in the negative temperatures and winter storms meant anything at all.
But I knew what had happened. I had pushed my body just a little too far for too long without enough recovery time and was suffering the effects of overtraining. I eased the training back and kept the running light, and even took an extra day off over the weekend. I’m not fully back yet, but I think I’m on the right track.
If you think you may be dealing with some training burnout, take a look back at what some of your recent training has looked like. If you’ve been training harder than you ever have before, you may just be overtired and in need of a little rest. Most people who have been there will tell you that it is better to reach the starting line of your race a little undertrained and healthy than overtrained and injured.
If you run the same routes too often, you may just need a change of scenery to shake up the running. Try running somewhere new, even if it means you have to drive a little out of the way to get there. Or try running with a friend you haven’t run with in a while.
Occasionally, the reason for your tiredness could be a sign of other health problems like anemia. If the iron content in your blood is low, running can become very difficult. A blood test from your doctor could solve that for you.
Be sure to listen to your body. That may mean saving a workout or a long run for another day when you are feeling better. It’s ok to take a day or two off if you are feeling completely worn down. Some of those big spring races are not too far off, and it is better to be standing on the starting line healthy!