You Might Be More Susceptible To Overtraining Than You Thought

Jannine Myers

Most runners are familiar with the term overtraining, but what they might not know is that it appears to affect recreational runners much more than originally thought.

Because overtraining refers to a decline in performance due to excessive stress on certain parts of the musculoskeletal system, we tend to associate it with professional runners who spend much more time training, and at much higher intensities. But Dr. Inigo San Millan, PhD., says that blood biomarkers showing up in recreational runners are increasingly revealing signs of overtraining.


Dr. Millan believes that the reason these biomarkers are being seen more and more in recreational runners, is because unlike professional runners, recreational runners don’t have an entourage of training and recovery specialists facilitating everything they do on a day-to-day basis.

The following points highlight how and why a recreational runner might find him/herself in an overtrained state:

  • Runners, in general, tend to be A-Type personalities; they are by nature hard workers and goal-achievers. While it’s clear that recreational runners don’t train at the same level and intensities as professional runners, many – especially A-types – still train with as much purpose and determination; the problem is that they are often just as zealous in other areas of their lives, and therefore, unintentionally negligent when it comes to ensuring optimal recovery conditions.
  • A “zealous” and busy recreational runner for example, might have a lifestyle outside of training that keeps her from getting adequate sleep. When she wakes up consistently feeling tired, she might be inclined to tell herself that fatigue is a normal part of training and should simply be tolerated; she’lll therefore continue to stick to her training plan and make no modifications. A professional runner on the other hand (or her coach, at least), is more likely to recognize early signs of overtraining and accordingly reduce the training workload and/or intensity.
  • Diet might also play a role in the occurrence of overtraining symptoms. The average recreational runner might know a lot about training, but a little about nutrition. A professional runner makes it her job to know how to properly fuel both during and outside of training. Interestingly, a too-low carbohydrate intake appears to be a common factor among recreational runners who suffer from overtraining.
  • Recreational runners are more likely than professional runners to try and “make up” for missed runs by overcompensating with extra intensity and/or miles. Additionally, recreational runners often run too fast, believing that the harder they run, the faster they’ll run. Professional runners understand however, that slow, easy runs are an important part of training as they help to heal minor damage from previous runs by pushing oxygen-rich blood through the legs.

So there you have it; your more advanced running peers are probably less likely than you to suffer the adverse effects of overtraining! With that in mind, take care when you next take on a significant training goal, especially if you’re someone who holds yourself to high standards in everything you do.

Here’s a few quick tips:

  1. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night.
  2. Consult with a nutritionist if you’re not sure that your diet is supporting your training efforts.
  3. Remember to slow down and take it easy on recovery days, and make sure that you actually rest on days that you should be resting.
  4. Minimize your stress levels, to the best of your ability.
  5. Schedule regular massage visits once you begin to approach a peak in your training workload, and use your foam roller if you have one.

Happy and safe running ladies!