Guest Post: Overtraining & the importance of rest days

Hi, I am Imogen visiting from TheKeanBeanRunningMachine. You may have seen me on Emma’s Instagram as we do love a good meet up. This week Emma and I have decided to do a collaboration on rest days and overtraining; a topic that we both feel quite strongly about and feel is not publicised enough. Please head over to my blog to read Emma’s part on rest days.

 How can you define overtraining?

Overtraining is something that is so common among athletes but is not always recognised. If someone is overtraining and still improving it can be hard to understand that they are actually having a negative impact on their training.

Overtraining… a heavy training load without allowing your body to recover, leading to a plateau in performance, burnout or injury.

Training

Overtraining can be a trap that is easily fallen into and I can speak from experience. I massively overtrained in 2016/17, running distances everyday but failing to acknowledge this because my performance was improving and I was not getting injured so why would I change? That is the biggest problem, some people won’t recognise that they are overtraining. You enjoy training and feel supposedly comfortable but you begin to fall into a routine or more of a cycle which doesn’t change. This can lead to a change in attitude towards your sport, perhaps making it feel like a chore. This is not how it should be.

Enjoy your runs/training, have a laugh with friends.

You might structure your days around training or worry about how you will fit it in, this is not always a bad thing but you shouldn’t HAVE TO plan your day around your training, you should plan your training around your day.

Emma told me an idea that “if you are questioning whether you should do a training session, then 99% of the time your body/brain is telling you not to do it”. You have to listen to your body to make sure you are looking after yourself and getting the most out of your training. There is no point pushing yourself through illness or injury because in the long term you will not see the benefits. Missing training sessions or changing your training a bit to fit around other commitments and keeping yourself healthy is NOT A BAD THING, DO NOT FEEL GUILTY!

Surely you would rather have a break from training to recover from a niggle or illness than push through it and eventually end up having to have a break anyway due to more complex injury/illness?!

Consequences

‘Runner’s high’, a feeling which we experience after races due to the high levels of endorphins released. Addiction to these hormones can develop and lead to serious consequences if it is not managed.

Stress fractures are a common injury as a result of overtraining. They are caused by repeated stress and overuse or low bone density. Low bone density or osteoporosis is a feature of RED-S (relative energy deficiency in sport). This is not an eating disorder of such but can be a result of overtraining. If you are constantly training and not fuelling enough you remain in a calorie deficit consequently leading to weight loss, low bone density and other complications associated with lack of sufficient fuelling including amenorrhea (loss of periods) in ladies.

Other overuse injuries such as shin splints are due to the strain on the body and the lack of recovery time in which the muscles can repair.

Performance

This is a difficult area to cover because of course you will initially see benefits in your performance; you are working harder and as they say ‘no pain, no gain’ however the more you overtrain, the greater the negative impact on your performance. Your body becomes exhausted and you experience muscle fatigue. You can no longer continue working at this intensity but it has become a routine which you are then afraid to change.

During races you may find it more difficult as it progresses, your muscles are fatigued and you are physically exhausted. Noticing this at the time of the race is not always guaranteed due to the hormones released during exercise making you feel ok but after the race you will probably feel drained.

Yes that is me that Emma is pointing to aha.

How to get out of the cycle?

This is probably the hardest part; yes you know about the consequences of overtraining but recognising that you are pushing yourself too much and breaking the cycle is difficult.

The best way to begin breaking the habit is finding new ways to train, for example if you run every day try introducing a few days of swimming, cycling or strength training as well as rest days!!!!!! (Head over to my blog to read Emma’s post about rest days).

After breaking up the training week with other ways of training, take a complete break from running or your sport. This will help to clear your mind and allow you to come back with a new attitude and fresh mind which will ultimately improve your performance.


I just wanted to thank Immy for writing about this topic, and remind you that part 2 of this collaboration is up on her blog now. I’ve approached the topic of rest days and their importance, so if you’d like to read more then head over to her blog to have a read!

Emma ♥♥