Ask Dr. Skendzel: When Does Race Training Become Too Much Running?

When you decide to run a race, committing to a training program is critical. But too much training can be as harmful as too little.

Twin Cities weekends are filled with running events. Neighborhoods are holding walk/run events with families in mind, organizations like Break the Stigma and Stop the Trafficking invite participants to channel athletic goals into opportunities to support deserving causes, and marathons challenge runners to meet or exceed their best times.

Whether you are contemplating a fun run or a full marathon, it’s exciting to train toward a new fitness milestone. Runners get into trouble on the course when they don’t train enough before a run, but it can be just as problematic to overtrain. We talked with Summit sports medicine physician and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jack Skendzel about how to balance your running goals with a healthful training program.

“When you train for a run,” he explains, “you are using your workouts to push your body so that it will rebuild and strengthen your muscles. You don’t get strong because you ran—you get strong because you ate right, slept eight or nine hours during heavy training, and gave your muscles the time they needed to recover. The rest is as important as the run. When you push too hard, you invite fatigue and an increased risk of injury. The line between ambitious training and overtraining isn’t always easy to see, but there are a few signs that will tell you that you are asking too much of your body.”

  • Elevated Heart Rate. Wearable devices make it easy to keep track of your resting heart rate. If you find that it is increasing over time, you may be overtraining.
  • Fatigue. It’s normal to feel tired after a long run, but if you start finding it tough to get through the day or regularly feel as though you might be on the verge of a cold, it may be time to slow down.
  • Unhealthy Sleep Patterns. Too much training can disrupt your circadian rhythm. If you are waking up during the night, or have difficulty sleeping, think about slowing down your training pace.
  • Changes in Demeanor. If you start to regularly feel discouraged about your running, or catch yourself reacting to minor issues with irritation, you are experiencing an early sign of overtraining. It’s time to adjust your training by taking a day off.
  • Muscle Soreness. When you train for a race, you are going to push yourself and experience sore muscles. However, soreness that doesn’t resolve, is concentrated in one joint or muscle group, or gets worse over time is not normal, and may be a symptom of injury.

“It is great to be committed to an athletic goal,” says Dr. Skendzel. “But if you begin to experience one or more of these symptoms as you train, your body may be telling you that you are doing too much too soon. Take a break from running for a week and let your body recover. During your time off, concentrate on healthful eating, get enough sleep, and continue light exercise to maintain muscle tone. A little rest and recuperation will give your body the time it needs to adapt and rebuild, so that you can continue your training without risking injury.”

Sports medicine: Expert bone, joint, and muscle care

From Olympians to pro athletes to youth sports and those that just want to be more active – Summit Orthopedics delivers expert care by fellowship-trained sports medicine physicians. If you are recently injured or concerned about ongoing pain, Summit Orthopedics sports medicine specialists have the expertise to evaluate your discomfort and develop a plan to quickly and safely help you get back to being active.

Start your journey to a more active self: Find your sports medicine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at 651-968-5201 to schedule a sports medicine consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as several additional community clinics.

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  • Jack Skendzel, M.D.

    “An active lifestyle requires superior physical function, and I understand that my patients have exceptionally high standards for their performance and joint health. My goal is to return patients to optimal function so that they can continue to perform and master their personal athletic goals.”

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