Too many runners overtrain and engage in excessive running that results in a constant state of fatigue.
You probably know the feeling.
Your body is always in a constant state of feeling worn down, weak or feeling tired despite getting adequate rest.
The key to feeling great is not to push yourself beyond what you are physically able to handle before you are ready.
Many new runners assume that since running is making them feel good, engaging in as much as possible will make them feel even better.
This is not the case.
In fact, it is one of the most common new runner mistakes.
Here are 5 strategies to avoid overtraining, fatigue and feel amazing as a runner.
1. Don’t Race Excessively
Racing can be fun but realize that it puts a lot of stress on your body.
Without taking time to recover from frequent racing and devoting time to recover in between races, you will hit a wall in your race performance and may even burn out.
Since racing is done at maximum effort, you should focus on running quality races rather than a large quantity.
For 5Ks or 10Ks, allow yourself 1-2 in a month total.
These races are often ran at maximum speed and can be almost more detrimental than longer distances ran at slower speeds.
Don’t let the short distance be a rationale to race them every weekend.
For distances over 10K and up to the half-marathon, you should allow a minimum of one month between each race.
This is not to say that you can’t run back to back half-marathons or a few in a short period of time occasionally, but they should not be a regular occurrence especially if you are just starting out.
For the marathon pick 1-2 marathons per year depending on your ability level.
Marathons bring a tremendous sense of accomplishment, but with that comes a toll on your body.
Even though they become easier with experience, respect the distance.
Beginners should focus on just one marathon a year when first starting out.
2. Variety is the Key to Successful Training
There are some runners that talk themselves into needing to do long runs every other day or perform speed workouts multiple times each week, especially if that is a targeted area for improvement.
You will become overtrained and likely injured if you put too much emphasis on any one type of training.
Depending on your race goal, one type of training is also eliminating the other types that are necessary for a successful race performance.
For example, if in training for a distance race you only ran fast, short distance speed workouts to increase your speed but sacrificed your long runs as you needed to recover from the speed work you won’t perform well on race day.
Some runners find it hard to run different types of workouts out of fear. They feel they aren’t doing enough.
Others are complacent and figure “this is always what has worked.”
Some runners just don’t realize that different types of running workouts exist or if they do why they should change things up and how to perform them properly.
3. Easy Runs Mean EASY!
Perhaps the most common error runners of all ability levels make is turning an easy run into a harder workout.
This can be due to fear, thoughts that the workout is useless or simply not proactively slowing down and allowing yourself to fall into a regular pace. This requires discipline that you need to build over time.
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to get a good workout from an easy run.
Think about the purpose of a recovery run. Improving your running fitness is not the reason for easy runs and if you try to run too far or too fast, you are not becoming a better runner.
You are actually hindering your training and increasing your risk of injury.
Understand why workouts in your training plan are structured the way they are and trust your training.
4. Maintain a Proper Diet
Your diet provides the fuel you need to train and it helps your body recover from the stresses of training and logging lots of miles.
There is no one proper diet for a runner and nutrition is a subject of an entire course inside Runner Academy Membership.
Maintaining a proper diet simply means eat real food like meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and grains.
Avoid the temptation to feel you can eat whatever you want all the time since you are a runner and will “just burn it off.”
While you may be able to have a few more allowances than those that are not as active, running is not an excuse for poor eating habits.
When running realize that you have to replace the calories you burn running in addition to your normal caloric needs.
This is especially pronounced on long runs.
Fail to due so and you will end up fatigued, with a headache or feeling ill. What’s worse, your body won’t have the nutrition necessary to make the gains from your training.
It can be easy to run caloric deficits during the peak weeks of marathon training.
My caloric needs are over 3,000 calories a day just to maintain myself. Add a long run over 12 miles into the mix and suddenly it is a lot higher!
The trouble comes when you don’t feel like consuming calories before you run to avoid getting runners trots or an upset stomach and then not feeling hungry or up for food post running for several hours.
Rather than focusing only on what you consume on any given day, aim to increase your caloric intake over the course of several days leading up to a high mileage week.
Your body will have more in it’s stores to tap for your run.
5. Get Some Sleep
You can only get the maximum benefit from your training if you sleep at least 7-8 hours per night. Just give it a try! This requires discipline.
Improvement as a runner happens when you sleep because that’s when your body recovers and adapts to the stress you placed upon it from your training.
The effort is made out on your runs, the gains are made while you are sleeping.
If you can, take a nap after a particularly difficult workout or long run (but eat something first!)
This will help you recover faster. If you find it challenging to get 7-8 hours of sleep per night, on a weekend rest day make it a point to go to bed early and wake up without an alarm clock.
I find this can be sufficient to really feel refreshed and recharged. Just don’t sleep until noon!
If you implement these five strategies, I guarantee you will notice a difference and be able to get out and crush it!