Any serious marathon runner knows that training for that 26.2-mile race takes dedication, perseverance, and a huge time commitment. Many hours are needed to be able to complete the distance. However, there needs to be a delicate balance between putting insufficient training but without overtraining.
Marathon overtraining syndrome symptoms are the results of systemic and long-term overtraining – not just after a few days of hard runs.
Marathon overtraining syndrome symptoms can be divided into two categories: physical and emotional.
While you need to break down your muscles to build them back up, if you do not allow yourself sufficient recovery, you will probably experience many of the physical symptoms.
- Heavy legs and muscle soreness: When you do not allow yourself to recover fully from long training runs, you will notice that your legs will start to feel heavy like you have lead in your legs. This can be accompanied by muscle soreness in your legs. You probably cannot run as fast or as far either.
- Extreme fatigue: Because you have not given yourself enough time to recover, you could also experience extreme fatigue. Your body is signalling to you that it craves rest, but continued training denies your body what it needs.
- Difficulty sleeping: Despite your extreme fatigue, you could paradoxically have trouble sleeping. Much of your recovery from training stress occurs during quality sleep, but marathon overtraining syndrome symptoms can cause you to be unable to sleep. Also, marathoners with intense schedules or who need more time to complete their workouts may choose to train rather than to sleep, thereby unknowingly contributing to sleep issues.
- Possible weight loss: Lack of sleep, heavy schedules, and less than optimal food intake can lead to weight loss. Your body craves food and needs the calories that food provides. Think of Tour de France cyclists – they are constantly eating to regain the calories burned during each day of their ride. You are no different, so eat up!
- Greater likelihood of illness: Some illnesses, like stress fractures, can be related directly to running while others, like colds, can be the result of the symptoms above. As well, you may take longer to recuperate from illnesses because your body does not have the resources to fight at optimal strength.
Marathon overtraining syndrome symptoms are not solely the domain of the physical effects either. Some emotional impacts include:
- Irritability, anxiety, and depression. Any negative change in behavior or personality, outside of typical irritability, can indicate that you are overtraining. Also, your fatigue and difficulty sleeping can exacerbate your irritability.
- Dislike of running. Depending on your training schedule, you may run every day, or just about, for weeks or even months. This continued training can result in monotony or even an actual dislike of running. While no one will be enthusiastic all the time about running, a growing and exceptional dislike of running can suggest you are experiencing marathon overtraining syndrome symptoms.
- The greater effect of general life stresses: Work, family life, chores – we all experience normal life stressors. But if your reaction to normal stressors seems to be affecting you more than usual, again, this could indicate marathon overtraining.
While the simple answer to relieving marathon overtraining syndrome symptoms is to rest, that answer is too simplistic. Of course, you do need to rest your running muscles, but this does not mean that you should do nothing. Relaxing activities like yoga or meditation not only can help your muscles but can also reduce the stresses that caused the sleep issues of marathon overtraining syndrome symptoms.
You will also need to reduce your training – be it distance, speed work, hill works, or general pace. For example, you can extend your schedule by allowing yourself more time to ramp up
Sleeping, eating, and drinking more (and optimally!), and regular massages can help you recover better and have a better training performance.
Once your body and mind have fully recovered, there is one more piece to the puzzle: prevention. After experiencing marathon overtraining syndrome symptoms, you probably want to avoid it during your next marathon training schedule. You need to know what your personal limits are, as they vary from person to person.
Make sure that you are well hydrated and get optimal nutrition, both in terms of quality and quality.
Keep a running journal can indicate trends in your marathon training schedule.
Finding other runners, either friends or an established running group can help reduce the risk of training monotony through social support and different training routes.
Knowing the symptoms of marathon overtraining, taking steps to alleviate them, and then preventing them together ensure that you can reach not only your optimal training but also optimal enjoyment too.
Also read: Weight Lifting and Marathon Training