Whether you’re training for an upcoming marathon or just want to increase your speed and mileage for your own sake, it’s very easy for runners to fall into the trap of overtraining.
When running is a big part of your life, it’s hard to recognize when you’re doing more than is healthy.
Even if you’re feeling fine now, be sure to keep these five lesser-known warning signs of overtraining in mind. That way, if they do present themselves, you’ll be prepared to take action to maintain your strength and health.
1. You’re Always Thirsty
Are you always reaching for your water bottle? Do you constantly feel parched throughout the day?
If you’re always feeling thirsty no matter how much water you’re drinking, this is a sign that you’re overtraining. When you’re overdoing it during your runs, your body could end up spending more time in a catabolic state.
When your body is in this state, it’s consuming its muscle in order to get the protein it needs. This, in turn, leads to dehydration since your muscles are 79 percent water.
If you’re struggling with dehydration, drinking more water straight from the tap isn’t necessarily the right answer. You may need to add some lemon juice and mineral salt to your water as well.
Adding salt to your water helps you get electrolytes, which facilitate cell hydration throughout the body. Lemon juice contains calcium and potassium, two minerals that work with salt to balance pH and fluid levels.
2. You Keep Getting Sick
Exercise helps your immune system function properly. But, over-exercising has the opposite effect. When you’re in a constantly catabolic state, your immune system operates less efficiently and your chances of getting sick increase.
If you’re regularly getting sick while training for a big race, you may need to supplement with vitamins A, C, E, and glutamine.
You should also make sure your diet, in general, is healthy and nutrient-rich — limit your consumption of processed carbohydrates and unhealthy fats (such as vegetable oils). These foods promote inflammation throughout the body and further suppress the immune system.
3. You’re Getting Hurt More Often
Are you regularly dealing with sprains, strains, and other injuries? Or, are old injuries starting to flare up? Whether it’s a torn ligament from extensive running or an aching shoulder caused by poor posture, frequent injuries are a sign that your body is being overworked.
If you’re not giving your body adequate time to recover in between training sessions, you’re going to find yourself dealing with injuries more often than you’d like.
To minimize your risk of experiencing overtraining injuries, it’s important to incorporate “forced rest days” into your schedule. You should also switch up your training so that some days are more intense than others. Don’t forget to add in strength training, either. This will make your muscles and joints more resilient and less prone to injury.
4. You’re Gaining Weight
It’s true that you burn lots of calories when you run. But, many people actually find that they gain weight while they’re training for a big race.
There are a few reasons for this. First, when you overtrain, your body starts to retain water. This will cause you to look “puffier,” and you may find that your clothes don’t fit you as well as they used to.
You may also start gaining weight because over-exercising leads to an increase in your body’s production of the hormone, cortisol. Increased cortisol levels have been linked to an increase in stored body fat, particularly in the abdominal area.
If you see yourself starting to gain weight while doing a lot of running, you’ll probably be tempted to increase your training sessions and decrease your calories. In reality, this is the worst thing you can do for your metabolism. Instead, eating more healthy, nutrient-rich foods and incorporating more rest and stress-busting practices into your routine.
5. You’re Struggling with Depression and Mood Swings
Overtraining can also lead to depression and mood swings. If you’re constantly snapping at your family or feeling sad or frustrated for no reason, your rigorous training schedule might be the culprit.
Depression and irritability are both common side effects of chronically elevated cortisol levels. To get your mood under control and feel more like yourself, be sure to prioritize rest and recovery days. You might also want to add some adaptogenic herbs (Ashwagandha, reishi, etc.) to your diet to help your body respond better to stressors and become more resilient.