We serious runners like to be hardcore. When it comes to mileage we value more. When it comes to pace we value faster. When it comes to rest we value minimal. Prizing the hardcore has helped many a runner become successful, but it has been many a runner’s downfall too. Some runners can thrive on pushing themselves to limits that would break many others–and that’s great for them!–but being someone else’s hardcore is not right for most of us. Doing our best requires that we respect our own individual limits and train within them.
It’s not always easy to know when we’re pushing too hard for ourselves. Here are some signs that it might be time to back off and rethink the intensity of your training.
1. You are stuck in a cycle of injury. Have you had two or more injuries in a 12 month period? Do you train for a few months only to suffer from another setback? Does the same injury continually pop up over and over?
While one isolated injury here or there might not be an indictment against your training and could be chalked up to a biomechanical issue or something else, repeated injuries often suggest that you may need to back off on your weekly mileage or the intensity of your speed work or easy runs or both.
2. You display signs of overtraining syndrome. The symptoms of overtraining syndrome can vary by individual and with severity of the condition, but the most common symptoms are:
- moodiness or irritability
- altered sleep patterns, could be sleeping more or less
- loss of competitive desire and enthusiasm for running
- persistent muscle soreness
- taking much longer to recover from normal training stresses
- frequent colds and other viral illnesses
- increased injuries
For more on overtraining syndrome, go here.
I recently noticed that despite sleeping over an hour more each night than usual I felt sluggish, uncharacteristically dreaded running, was feeling sore in many different areas than would be expected and was struggling to run a pace that should have been super easy. This was a huge red flag that I needed to take at least a few days off of all exercise and recover mentally and physically. My body and mind were telling me I needed a break and I listened!
3. Your training has improved, while your race times have not. It feels really good to nail a speed workout at paces you have never been able to run before. Really good! And it feels good to nail those paces week after week, but if you’re doing that your race times should be dropping. If not, something isn’t right. Sure, some athletes thrive on training at super fast intensities, but most do not.
If you feel like you’re leaving your best performances out on the track during workouts rather than on a race course, it might be time to slow your training paces down in line with the fitness your race paces indicate you have. To determine correct training paces for your current fitness you can input your most recent race times into the McMillan Calculator or the Jack Daniels VDOT table. For more about slowing down training to race faster, go here.
4. You are neglecting other important aspects of your life because you’re focused so much on running. If you are having so much trouble fitting in all the hardcore weekly mileage and finding the time and energy for hardcore speed workouts leaving you with not much left to enjoy the rest of your life, then it’s time to consider backing off. Running should enhance our lives, not take them over! Obsessing about running, isolating yourself from your nonrunning loved ones or neglecting important nonrunning responsibilities are huge red flags that you’re taking this hardcore thing much too far.
If you feel like you might be going a little overboard chasing down hardcore with your training, consider slowing down, cutting back and reassessing. Not only might backing off help you find a little more balance in your life, but it might very well lead to big PRs down the road.
Have you ever gone overboard with being hardcore with your running?