Training fatigue is a super common component of building mileage whether it’s for a marathon, half marathon or triathlon. We’re requesting that each week the body do just a bit more, which requires breaking the body down to build it up.
The process of training is designed to tear us down. In the recovery periods our muscles then rebuild to be stronger. In the hard runs our minds grow stronger.
Unfortunately, it’s too easy to cross the line from training smart to simply training too much. When things are going well we have a tendency to do a bit more. When things aren’t going well, we dig in deeper and try to do more.
So I guess we know the first cause already, doing too much!!
But we can combat the traditional symptoms of burnout and training fatigue with a few smart switches. And yes, indeed I’m going to tell you exactly what those are today. Whether you implement these ideas to help your running fatigue is entirely in your hands.
Signs of Running Fatigue
Our bodies require rest in between strenuous workouts. Think of rest and active recovery as one of the most important parts of the training process that will help you reach your fitness goals
We need that breakdown to rebuild, so don’t avoid it, but pay attention to it.
- Physical side effects include elevated resting heart rate, decreased libido in men, dehydration, and restless legs
- Rhabdomyolysis or “rhabdo”, a condition caused when excessive muscle breakdown forces muscle proteins into the bloodstream.
- Appetite suppression
- Mood swings and increased stress levels
- Poor sleep or insomnia (and we know how important sleep is for recovery)
- Amenorrhea in women (aka no period for three months or longer)
Part of what we need to figure out is if you’re overtraining or just hitting some peak training. So let’s dive in to the rest of the details.
8 Ways to Overcome Running Fatigue
The first thing we have to look at is the cause of your fatigue, how deep of a hole you may have dug for yourself (i.e. adrenal fatigue) and then what you can do to start feeling better ASAP.
Here’s the steps we’re going to follow to help get you back on track and feeling good!
- Find the Root Cause of Your Fatigue
- Figure Out if Overtraining or Normal Fatigue of Growth
- Ensure Easy Runs are Easy Enough
- Ask, Are You Sleeping Enough?
- Get Blood Work Check Up
- Follow Your Training Plan
- Determine if Goals Still Excite You
- Stay on Top Of Inflammation
#1 Find the Root Cause of Your Training Fatigue
Figuring out why you’re feeling constantly fatigued could be pretty straight forward or require a little bit of extra sleuthing. But here is usually where we need to start, these questions can often help you make a quick switch to get back to feeling well.
- Did you jump your mileage substantially?
- Are you drinking water, but not electrolytes?
- Are you spending enough time on recovery (which is not just rest).
- Are you eating enough to support your activities?
- Are you taking easy days easy?
- Do you perhaps have low iron or low vitamin D?
- Has this been going on long enough that you’ve compromised your hormones or your immune system?
- Are you stressed out in the rest of your daily life? Cause that impacts your runs!
There’s a lot to say about all of these, which is why many are linked to entire articles. But let’s talk specifically about a few of them right now.
#2 Figure Out if it’s Overtraining or Normal Fatigue of Growth
One of the most fascinating things for me in switching to Low Heart Rate Training was that my fatigue levels dropped drastically.
Now that I’m in a new round of marathon training I’m still following a general 80/20 principle where 80% of my runs are done at my LHR max and then 20% are either speed work or that uptick in HR at the end of long runs where I focus on maintaining effort.
Through this cycle I was able to realize there’s a massive difference between the fatigue you feeling hitting those final miles of your longest run in ages (or ever) and the everyday “oh my gosh, I don’t want to get out of bed, I can’t possibly run” feelings.
- Overtraining is a constant fatigue and you usually know if you’ve brought it on by really going much harder, running much longer or adding in a lot of new things lately.
- Growth fatigue is that muscle soreness which you absolutely notice, but doesn’t leave your whole brain and body feeling run down for weeks on end.
Remember that you don’t need to run the full distance before your race. Doing so is a great way to cause this fatigue.
Find out how far your longest marathon run should be.
#3 Ensure Easy Runs are Easy Enough
This still ties in to the above mindset of needing to do more, but you may still be in the gray zone of not quite hitting overtraining, yet feeling fatigued.
I know 8 min/mile marathon runners who do easy runs at an 11 minute pace some days. It’s all about listening to their bodies and not their watches!!
In fact, all those Kenyans we see winning races do 80% of their training at a very EASY level.
Now clearly, easy is specific to you and your pace. But instead of focusing on pace, start tuning in to your perceived level of exertion and aim for a 3-4.
This is another area where low heart rate has helped a LOT of runners that I coach start to really pay attention to their bodies.
#4 Ask, Are You Sleeping Enough?
One of the best tools we have for recovery is completely free, sleep. I’ve talked a ton about how to get more sleep as a runner and why we need it (not like 5 hours, but possibly 9), but a quick reminder.
“the stress of hard physical training breaks us down, and it is only when we follow stress with rest that adaptation and growth occurs.
This is especially true with sleeping, which is a catalyst for physical growth. Just as the brain is actively processing the work we’ve done throughout the day, when we sleep the body is doing the same.”
#5 Get Blood Work Check Up
I swear that Inside Tracker has been a great tool for not only me, but a number of athletes that I coach.
While you can absolutely go to your primary doctor, I have found many of them are resistant to running all of the things that we need and instead simply tell people to rest.
That doesn’t work for runners.
A blood test can quickly identify that you need more iron (super common) or that you’re low on Vitamin D (yes even being outside non-stop my body runs low). These are crazy simple fixes that have people feeling a million times better within a week.
Checkout the key vitamins athletes need to perform their best.
#6 Follow Your Training Plan
When it calls for a cut back week, are you taking that time and allowing your body to absorb the training? Or are you nervous that you’re not making progress and pushing yourself to do more than the schedule allots?
In other words, are you questioning that very well thought out plan. Do you maybe need a coach who is going to keep you on track so you don’t overdo one week and under perform the next?Are you tired from doing too much or simply the growth of marathon training? Find out!! #runchat Click To Tweet
#7 Determine if Goals Still Excite You
We often pick out races up to a year in advance because of the crazy new lottery systems or simply life planning. I don’t know about you, but I’m often surprised by how things change from month to month, let alone how I’ll be feeling in a year!!
The idea of that far off marathon might not seem quite as appealing when life is suddenly handing you extra long work weeks or sick kids or well you’re just having a whole lot more fun running with your friends than chasing a clock.
It’s ok to be honest and realize that your goal has changed. BUT if it hasn’t and you’re fatigued, then get to digging!
#8 Stay on Top Of Inflammation
I’ve mentioned turmeric so many times now that I realized I should maybe explain it a bit more! I know it sounds like another new age thing because you see these turmeric lattes floating around, but we’ve got some serious science here.
Plus anecdotally, it’s been a massive win for me, helped my Dad and now David is using it per a Dr recommendation to help the arthritis in his big toe.
I really will do a full blog post, but I think the key takeaways here are how are you focusing on helping your body to recover?
A few things which, as noted are personal experience, helped me come back so strong and quickly from knee surgery:
- Turmeric pills
- CBD for runners
- Monthly massage to help with the muscles and just stress – this has long been key for me
- Sports Chiropractor for alignment issues
- Eating anti-inflammatory foods
- Sleep – yup fights inflammation
- Cryotherapy — ok I tried this one and it wasn’t for me, but maybe for you
If you’re in the midst of marathon training burnout, read this post.
But if it’s just that never ending feeling of tired, then I hope that this post gives you some ideas to deal with running fatigue!!
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