Rest days can be quite enjoyable; however, if unscheduled not so much. Still, there are times when unscheduled rest days are essential. I’ve listed those instances in what I call The Runner’s Rule of Three.
Hurdling the waves, I felt a sudden twitch like something had moved out of place. I didn’t feel pain at the time, but after crossing the finish line, I became acutely aware that something was wrong. Not only did it take 3 weeks to run again, I spent the rest of 2012 battling “IT band” issues. Finally, towards the end of the year, yet another injury, masquerading as the IT band took me out, only this time I knew it couldn’t be my IT band. This felt different.
Three doctors, specialists, x-rays, and multiple evaluations later, my chiropractor solved the puzzle. The IT band was simply a symptoms of a larger problem (as is usually the case), a hyper-extended knee that keep me from competing for most of 2012. An injury can be simple or complex; however, all injuries require your attention, no matter how small they may appear to be.
3 Signs you should NOT ignore
- The pain worsens over several days rather than improving.
- You experience sharp, throbbing pains rather than dull aches.
- You experience the same injury repeatedly.
Known to veterans and novice runners alike, overtraining can unravel weeks and months worth of steadfast, forward progress. It strikes beginning runners the hardest, as veteran runners often recognize the warning signs and tap the brakes immediately, preventing total overheating.
Signs your engine is overheating
- Decreased performance. You’ve trained for weeks or months perhaps, when suddenly you experience a series of “bad” runs. A couple of bad runs here or there isn’t anything to worry about. It happens to everyone; however, if you notice a trend over several runs, you could well be overtraining.
- Lead Legs. We’ve all been there the day after a long run, heavy weight training session, or after a challenging speedwork session. That’s expected. However, if your legs and/or body are still feeling sluggish and heavy after 48 hours, it should raise a red flag.
- Higher than normal heart rate. Listen to your body, as it will give you warning signs that something isn’t quite right, and an increased resting heart rate is one of them. This is best taken first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. If your resting heart rate is higher than usual, it often indicates that your body is working harder than normal. Pay attention to this subtle, yet important sign.
- Illnesses. If you are usually quite healthy, a sudden increase in colds and other illnesses that you just can’t seem to shake can indicate overtraining. This is particularly true during the warmer months of the year, though it is applicable all year round.
- Longer Recovery Times. Do you suddenly have aches after training runs that last for 3-4 days; whereas, it would normally only last 24 hours or so? If so, it’s very possible you’ve overtrained
I remember this happened to me last summer, and I knew right away that I had bitten off more than my body could chew at that moment. Training for my first ultra, I went out for my second 20 miler. I remember feeling less than enthusiastic about running that day, and the run itself seemed to drag. I managed to complete it; however, it was a good 45 minutes slower than the previous run of the same distance and on the same terrain. I went home feeling blah. The next day just as bad….and the day after…and the day after. It took a good 4 days before I felt recovered enough to go for a mid-distance run. Even that run was slower than usual. My body hit the red zone, forcing me to back off for a week and ease back into it.
- Losing that “Run Happy” feeling. Feeling blue? A little down in the dumps lately for no reason? You’ll be surprised to know…I know I was…that “the blues” often precedes overtraining syndrome. I came across an article on Runner’s World during one of my many times browsing the web for running-related articles because it’s the type of news I’d rather read. I started thinking of the last time I overtrained, and sure enough, I remember feeling a bit “blah” in the week or so prior to the episode. So if people are a bit too cheery for you lately, keep an eye on your running.
Quite frankly, like the cold, the symptoms of overtraining differ for everyone. Some are more common than others like the ones outlined above, but those aren’t the end-all-be-all symptoms. My husband happened upon a website called GrappleArts.com and sent me an article he thought would be of interest to me. The article, although aimed at fighters, can be applied to every sport out there and lists more than a dozen symptoms of overtraining.
No runner enjoys taking unscheduled rest days. It’s simply not in our vocabulary. However, before stepping out the door next time, consider the Runner’s Rule of Three: injuries, overtraining, and illnesses. If you are suffering from any of those, take a rest day. Stomp if you must. Throw yourself to your knees, head back, hands pulling at your hair, face twisted in anguish, and cry “Woe is me! Why? WHY? WHYYYYY?” …or if you’re my 22 month old, throw yourself onto your stomach, proceed to kick the floor, then turn over to see if mami is watching, and roll from side to side while screaming. Don’t forget to stop and make sure someone is watching.