Over Training and Running

Over training can occur when runners run too hard or too fast which causes stress to their bodies. Over training can affect runners of all abilities but new runners are more susceptible to over training. It’s in the nature of the most runners to push themselves to achieve their goals. Running without a coach or a running group can lead to a higher incidence of over training. The early warning signs of over training include:

• A dip in enthusiasm,
• You seem to catch a cold more easily,
• Stitches appear more quickly,
• Excessive muscle soreness and stiffness.

Essentially there are two main types of over training, sympathetic and parasympathetic over training. The sympathetic nervous system speeds up bodily functions thereby increasing energy needs, and the parasympathetic system slows down bodily functions thereby conserving energy. Together they comprise the autonomic nervous system and work simultaneously to control breathing, heart rate and sweat glands. Most runners will suffer from sympathetic over training and suffer from some or all of the symptoms below:

• Fatigue
• Lack of focus
• Difficulty in sleeping
• Prone to irritability
• Depression
• Decreases in performance
• Appetite and Weight Loss
• Delayed recovery from running
• Increase in injuries
• Excessive muscle soreness
• Loss of enthusiasm

To recover from sympathetic overtraining runners need to rest or reduce the level of training. If runners ignore the symptoms of sympathetic over training than the parasympathetic system kicks in to allow the body to recover. The runners resting heart rate will decrease to allow the body to recover also the runner may suffer from a rapid heart rate recovery after exercise, and decreased resting blood pressure. This obviously has long term implications if continued for any given time.


Hormones regulate almost all your bodily functions. They regulate growth and development, help you cope with both physical and mental stress, and they regulate all forms of training responses including protein metabolism, fat mobilization and energy production. In a nutshell, they do it all.

Over training also causes the runners hormonal balance to be affected. Anabolic processes are regulated by the levels of testosterone to cortisol which is one regulates recovery after a training session. A change in this ratio can significantly affect the level of over training. A reduction in the level of testosterone together with an increase of cortisol will increase the amount of protein catabolism in the cells. Over trained runners often have high levels of urea which basically means that this process is responsible for the loss of body mass when you over train. The best way to minimize the risk of over training is to alternate easy, moderate, and hard periods of training.

As a general rule, 1 or 2 days of intense training should be followed by an equal number of easy aerobic training days. Repeated days of hard training cause a gradual reduction of muscle glycogen. Lowered blood glucose (from prolonged exercise or not enough carbohydrates in your diet) stimulates the release of glucagon, which performs the opposite function of insulin. The body has the ability to store 500 grams of glycogen, 400 are in muscle glycogen, 95 in liver glycogen and 5 grams in blood borne glucose. Unless these athletes consume extra carbohydrates during these periods, their muscle and liver glycogen reserves can be depleted. Therefore pre and post work out meals which have the appropriate levels of carbohydrates, protein and fat are essential to prevent over training. Injuries due to over training include:

• Tight calves
• Shin Splints
• Knee Pain
• Hamstring injuries
• Back Pain
• Arch/ heel pain
• Achilles tendonitis
• Ankle sprains
• And a tell tale sign is blisters!

For detailed information on these injuries please use the side navigation bar to navigate to the appropriate topic of interest.