How Much is Too Much Running? | The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans LLC


Last week, I posted a question to our Run With the Sisterhood Facebook page, asking our readers if they had any questions for me.  I received a few inquiries that may appeal to our broader audience, so in my next few posts, I’m going to try to answer them.  (Keep in mind, I am not a certified coach or trainer and if you have specific questions related to injuries you should seek medical advice.)

Sherre’ asked, “How much is too much running?”  She said she’s 43 and just started running a year ago.  Like some of us *cough ME cough* she’s hooked and wants to keep adding miles.  Sherre’ is concerned she may be adding miles too quickly and setting herself up for injury with a 10k in a few weeks and then a 15k in July.  She wants to know if there is such as thing as too much running.

The short answer…Yes.  As with any form of repetitive physical activity, it is possible to get caught up in the terrible too’s: Too much, too fast, too soon.  This is particularly the case with newer runners such as Sherre’.  They get caught up in the excitement, maybe see a nice drop in their pants size, and they figure more is better.  Sadly, this often isn’t the case.  Increasing your mileage too quickly can result in overuse injuries such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis, or other common runner ailments.

Those of us who have been running for many years aren’t immune to the hazards of overtraining either.  Overtraining can be as bad as an actual injury if not worse.  If you are feeling more irritable, not sleeping well, just climbing a flight of stairs is exhausting, or you can’t seem to motivate yourself to get out the door, these are all signs that your body is telling you you need a break.  Not listening to those signs can lead to illness or injury.  Try taking a bit of time off or scale back in your intensity to see if this helps.

So, back to Sherre’s question – how much is too much running?  Unfortunately, there isn’t an easy answer because everyone has a different threshold.  For example, I know I don’t do well running back to back days.  I’ve done it when training for relays but for the most part, I run 3 or 4 days a week and rarely run consecutive days.  Several of my runner friends can run 6 days a week without negative consequences.  They’ve learned how to listen to their bodies and recognize when the need to take a step back, plus they don’t run the same run every day.  Varying speed, distance and intensity throughout the week can keep you healthier.

How do you make sure you don’t get caught up in the terrible too’s? Most experts recommend sticking with the 10% rule.  Do not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% each week and for many new runners, don’t run on back to back days (feel free to do other forms of cardio or strength training though). They key is to increase your mileage gradually and every few weeks, step back down a little bit to give your body some recovery time.  This gives you a chance to build your endurance as well as learn what your body’s signals are to back off.  Learn to recognize the difference between normal aches and pains and the pain that comes with injury.  It is also important to take at least 1 day off completely each week. Your body needs this day to rebuild the muscle you’ve been breaking down all week.  As for Sherre’, it sounds like her plan to move from the 10k to the 15k over several months is a good one.

Have you experienced signs of overtraining or the dreaded too’s?  How did you recover?

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