QT: Overcoming Overtraining Syndrome for Runners

After taking a closer look at the signs and symptoms of overtraining syndrome last week, it’s time to dig a little deeper into balancing the work to recovery ratio.

What is the solution for overcoming overtraining syndrome?

Thankfully for us as runners, there are more options available than simply running fewer miles.

Two Variables at Play

At first glance, overcoming overtraining syndrome is relatively simple: run less.

To be fair, this is a viable option. And may even be the best option for some runners.

But it’s not the only option.

Overtraining syndrome, by definition, means that the amount of recovery being done isn’t enough to counteract the volume of training.

Which means that overcoming overtraining syndrome requires a proper relationship between work and recovery.

As such, you can either run less, improve your rate of recovery, or do a little bit of both to beat back the symptoms of overtraining.

Options Galore

If you’re pretty sure you’re dealing with a bout of overtraining syndrome, the good news is that you have options.

And not just the two options of running less or recovering better, but within each category there are options to help you rebalance your work/recovery ratio.

Running Less:

On the surface, this one is pretty simple, right?

But when I’m talking about running less, what I’m really talking about is reducing the amount of training stress you are placing on your body, running or otherwise.

So sure, you could run less. You could also run at a lower overall intensity. Or you could spread out your miles a bit more evenly (maybe run 5 days per week instead of 4, but not increase total weekly mileage). Stop doing speed work for awhile.

Outside of running, but still in terms of training stress, the same idea would apply.

Maybe doing a bit more body weight strength training as opposed to really heavy lifting.  Doing “slow strength” as opposed to something more akin to HIIT or Cross Fit. With your cross training, not trying to land on the Peloton leaderboard all the time, instead just get some time in the saddle with your legs moving at a low level of intensity.

In the right amount, any/all of these things can be very beneficial to your growth as a runner.

But too much of any/all of them can definitely result in you dealing with overtraining syndrome sooner or later.

Recover Better:

Our bodies really are pretty incredible.

Their ability to adapt/respond to the demands that we place upon there are amazing.

That said, there are things that we can do that will allow our bodies to do what they do at an even higher level.

Aka, we can help our bodies recover better.

Any number of ways.

  • Get more sleep.
  • Improve sleep quality.
  • Maintain adequate hydration levels.
  • Eat quality foods.
  • Improve how we manage stress.

Each of those areas, and dozens of others, contribute to our rate of recovery due to the stress that running (and training) places upon our system.

A Little of Both is (Probably) Best

When it comes to overcoming overtraining syndrome and balancing the work/recovery ratio, is it better to focus on reducing training stress or stepping up the recovery?

From where I’m sitting, this one is a no brainer.

The best bet is a little bit of both.

Reduce your training stress a little bit. Optimize your recovery a little bit.

Overcoming overtraining syndrome by only doing one or the other?

It can work, but it’s probably going to be more difficult and likely to take longer to work through it.

But if you move both levers simultaneously?

With a little luck, things will really pick up some speed and you’ll be able to come out the other side in fairly short order.

Have You Dealt with Overtraining Syndrome Before?
How Did You Work Through It?

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