Let’s face it… fatigue is a common side effect of training and running. It is normally to feel tired after a long run or a bigger training block. By the end of a hard training week, you might find yourself feeling run down and it might be hard to get out of bed Monday morning. It is common to experience short bouts of fatigue during the season, especially after particularly long and demanding runs. But when is fatigue not normal? When the symptoms last longer than that, though, you may want look at what may be contributing to your ongoing fatigue.
When gearing up for a big goal race, you are going to be training harder and longer. To improve your distance and or speed, you want to make sure you have a solid base before starting to increase how fast or far you are going. A drastic increase in the amount you are running can drain you. Watch your weekly mileage or hours on feet and pay attention to your cross training as well. If you are adding more to your regime each week, you might feel more tired than normal.
How to combat it: I always recommend building up your mileage and workouts for 3 weeks and then have a week where you cut what you are doing to nearly half. You need to give your body adequate time to rest and recover before building up again. You won’t loose what you’ve been working towards in a week, if anything, a week with less activity will make you stronger and you’ll feel the benefits of your harder weeks.
As the summer heat increases, you might find that you feel like you are working harder while running the same distances you have been. Training for long distance events in the heat can suck the life out of you and you will require a lot more time to recover. Training in the heat puts you at risk for chronic dehydration and sun stroke. A long week of training under the sun might result in being dehydrated which increases muscle fatigue. It can also slow down your recovery time.
How to combat it: Pay attention to how your body reacts to the heat. You might need to increase your fluid intake during your run and post run as well. If you find you are really suffering from the temperatures try and train earlier in the morning or later at night.
If your goal race includes getting a shiny new PR, you will probably be including speed work and faster paced training runs in your weekly training schedule. A new pace or pushing yourself beyond what you normally do can definitely take its toll on your body and you should be receptive to how you are feeling. If you are starting to feel run down and are starting to notice your pace is actually slowing down, it might not be a bad idea to hold back a little.
How to combat it: Training is about doing strategically placed, purposeful workouts in a progression to apply just enough stress to the body that it adapts and gains fitness. Remember to tailor your training plan to your body, life and current fitness level. Let your pace be the outcome of the workout. That way, you can have fun watching your body progress as you run longer, cover the miles more quickly, and become comfortable with how varied pace can be day to day and week to week.
Lack of sleep:
If you are asking more from your body and training hard for something, you have to consider how much you should be sleeping. High density training really takes a toll on your body so if you are deep into your training for your goal race, you might actually need more sleep than you normally get. Sleep is really a recovery tool and you need to respect your bodies need to sleep more. When your body is lacking quality sleep, fatigue is the first symptom, followed by other negative consequences like hormone imbalance, which can dramatically affect your energy, health, and performance down the road. Your body will require more sleep when training for a big race.
How to combat it: If you feel more tired than normal, look at how many hours a night you are sleeping. Most adults need 8 hours… an adult in training might need a few more. Try going to bed earlier some nights or allowing yourself to sleep in on a day off. Listen to your body and back off if needed. If you can’t shake the fatigue, take an extra rest day and give your body that rest it needs.
When you are training hard, sometimes the last thing you can think of is taking a complete rest day. For me, I am so guilty of using a work day as a rest day. I have a really active job where I am on my feet for 12 hours… you really can’t call that a rest day!! If you are feeling run down and excessively tired, you might need to add in a few more total rest days. Even your easy runs or cross training days take their toll on your energy levels.
How to combat it: Plan something for a day off that does not involve working out so you can stay accountable for your rest day. Running with a slower friend and cross-training at easy-to-moderate efforts are great ways to assure you’re truly going easy enough and bridging the gap between your long and harder runs. Invest in at least one complete rest day weekly to balance the demands of your training schedule and to allow your body to properly recover in between hard training sessions. This is especially true for those that lead busy, hectic lives.
Running more? Running harder? You probably need to eat more! You are burning tons of calories out there and even when you are resting after a run, your metabolic rate is still revving high. Make sure to fuel yourself during your long runs and refuel with enough calories via high-quality carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. If you are training harder, you might need to add in an extra portion or extra snack through out the day. If you are constantly feeling hungry and run down, or you feel like you can’t quite get full, you might want to look at your diet to see if you are getting enough calories.
How to combat it: Fueling before, during and after a run is key to maintaining sufficient caloric intake. Don’t let you hunger get out of control, carry snacks with you on your longer runs and when you are on the go.
Most of us live pretty chaotic lives. From our jobs, to our families, to our training schedules, it all adds up. Pay attention to events that might be causing more stress than normal for you. Are you starting a new job, going through a separation, moving, travelling a lot for work, just had a baby, going through family issues… life stress has an effect on your overall health and requires energy to navigate through it. How to combat it: As best you can, try to eliminate the drama and stress from your life. Sometimes just identifying what drains you is enough to motivate you to remove it from your life. If it’s inevitable stress, find other ways to reduce the toll on your body (sleep, rest days, fewer running days, yoga). The idea is to remove the stressor to make room for the demands of your training. And if it unavoidable stressful situation that just needs to be navigated through, try pulling back a little on running.
If none of what I have described above speaks to you, or if your fatigue just feels above and beyond normal, expectable fatigue… there might be something else going on. Runners are at risk for low iron, especially female runners. It might not be a bad idea to head to your doctor and get some routine blood work done.