How to Keep from Overtraining

By: Brian Elder

For some runners it is difficult to get out for runs consistently during the winter months when temperatures drop and the Northeast has seen more snow than ever before, but for others they have the opposite problem. Overtraining is a common problem for runners and there are some signs and things that you should be aware of to prevent this from happening as your get ready for race season in the spring. 

1. Muscle Soreness

- One of the first signs of overtraining is muscle soreness. After a difficult workout it is natural for your muscles to be sore even for a day or two but if your muscles remain sore after a difficult workout for more than three days this is a good sign that you should pull back on either the intensity or mileage you are running. Easy runs are important too. 

2. Sleep/Restlessness

- Usually exercise is something that helps people who struggle to sleep get some extra "z's" but if you find that you are exercising more than normal and are having difficulty sleeping this restlessness is a sign of overtraining. Your body takes time to recover back to its normal state after a period of exercise so if you find yourself overexerting yourself or exercising later at night this could cause a loss of sleep. 

3. Lack of Appetite

- One thing that I always see when I run is an increased appetite. This is not true for every runner, but is a good rule of thumb for most people because they are burning extra calories and need more food to fuel their body. Overtraining can create the opposite result. Immediately after a race most people do not want to eat because they have exerted themselves at a greater effort than normal. The same happens when we begin to over-train. Our bodies can see a lack of appetite which prevents you from receiving the nutrients you need. 

4. Weak immune system

- This one may surprise some people. Studies show that exercise helps boost the immune system, but like many of the other signs of overtraining, while running at a healthy schedule helps improve your immune system, taking training too far has an adverse effect. Rest and recovery can help fix this problem to boost your immune system. 

5. Elevated Heart Rate

- Like we mentioned above, it takes time for your body and your heart rate to slow down when you recover. Most people have a regular resting heart rate (the rate at which the heart beats while the body is not exercising or at rest throughout the day), but runners who are overtraining can see an increase in the rate of their heart beats per minute as the body attempts to keep up with the intensified level of energy you are exerting. This is another reason why wearing a heart rate monitor while running can be effective. 

If you are facing any of the above signs it is probably a good idea to take a day or two off and rest. While training is essential to improving as a runner, rest is just as important. If you want your body to perform at its best on the day of a race it needs to be fresh so that your muscles can be ready to be used at their greatest potential. 


Brian Elder is a learner, amateur explorer, and runner that is going to run until it takes him somewhere. He is a graduate from the University of Georgia where he studied English and Religion. After running competitively on trails and roads, he fuels with an appetite so big you would swear it’s competitive.  Follow Brian on Instagram.