It’s normal to feel fatigued during marathon training, especially during the later weeks, when your mileage is at or nearing its peak and your long runs are regularly reaching 18–20 miles. But if you find yourself feeling tired all the time or you’re experiencing other symptoms of overtraining, you need to take a few days off and see if that helps rejuvenate your body. Overtraining is by far the biggest cause of injuries in runners.
The most obvious indication that you might be overtraining is fatigue bordering on exhaustion. A lack of uninterrupted sleep might be your culprit, since a restless sleep interferes with your body’s ability to release endorphins and growth hormones to repair itself. Muscle soreness that lasts for days, and frequent colds and other illness, are also common signs of overtraining, as are increased depression and crankiness and an elevated resting heart rate in the morning.
Again, the most prudent thing to do if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms is to rest for a few days. If the symptoms persist, go see a doctor. If you’ve been training hard for several months, a few days to a week off is not going to have a negative effect on your race-day performance. What it’s going to do is prevent you from getting seriously injured and perhaps missing the race entirely.
Another important thing you can do is to make sure that you give your body enough rest during training, especially after a long run or hard effort. Your muscle fibers and tendons take quite a beating during the course of a run, but if they’re given the time to heal and repair properly, they’ll come back even stronger for your next run. If you put them under too much stress too often, without adequate rest, they’re very likely to break down.
Dr. Vijay Vad is a physiatrist at Hospital for Special Surgery. Dr. Vad is the physician for the professional men’s tennis circuit and specializes in minimally invasive treatments of sports injuries, the spine, and arthritis. Dr. Vad is the author of the books Back Rx, Arthritis Rx, Golf Rx, and most recently, The New Rules of Running.