We Need a Rest Day- Signs and Symptoms of Overtraining


Runners know that rest day should be part of the training program. For some runners, rest day is a bit challenging, some feel guilty and don’t add a 100% rest day weekly. Elite runners know that rest days and easy runs are important. Elite runners spend 80% of their training on easy runs and also focus on recovery, rest and even daily naps, massages, lots of sleep, and high-quality, healthy diets. But for normal runners, with a busy life schedule, getting lots of sleep, recovery, super healthy foods is not easy to include in our daily life schedule.


What affects how many rest days we need?

The training intensity, our nutrition, our sleep pattern and schedule and our daily lifestyle, can all affect our recovery. If we don’t take a rest day, many issues and symptoms will occur. Our body cannot perform at its best if it is under too much stress, overtraining and not enough recovery. Our running performance will be affected.


Symptoms of Overtraining

Overtraining can cause many issues with our overall health, our hormone levels are off, our body might start to hold on to body fat due to increased cortisol, and our training progression will start decreasing.


  1. Trouble Sleeping– Poor quality of sleep, or not able to fall asleep quickly is a sign that our nervous system is overloaded. Without regular sleep, the body cannot function properly. Regular, high quality sleep stimulates muscle growth, and repairs and boost the immune system. Lack of sleep affects our training performance and restrains the conversion of carbs to glycogen, which will affect our fueling and energy levels.
  2. Causes Dehydration– If we’re always very thirsty, and our urine is dark yellow, that’s a sign of dehydration. When dealing with constant stress, the adrenal glands start to release cortisol, the stress hormone. That is adrenal fatigue. When dealing with this issue, the exhausted adrenal glands can’t produce aldosterone, the hormone that regulates electrolyte and fluid levels, that causes our body to require more water. Another sign of constant thirst can be due to the body reaching a catabolic state. When the body starts to break down muscle tissue to use as fuel rather than fat and carbs. Without proper fueling and hydration during intense training, the body turns into a catabolic state.
  3. Feeling Slow and Weak During Runs– A tough, or bad run happens to all runners sometimes, but feeling tired during every run is a sign of overtraining and we need to look at our training schedule and readjust it. Feeling slow, weak and not able to follow our regular pace shows signs of fatigue. That means we don’t provide enough time for the muscles to recover, not getting enough sleep and not fueling properly. Our training plan should only include one or two hard sessions per week. The other runs should be easier runs.
  4. Muscle Aches and Pain– When our body is tired, muscles sore and we haven’t slept well in days, it will affect our running form. Running long term with poor form can cause overuse injuries due to stress and strain. When our body is forced to rest due to an injury, that is our smart body that will make sure we rest. After each training or exercise session, the stress creates microscopic tears in the muscle tissue. With proper rest, the muscles have time to recover and repair, but without enough rest, constant running can cause more tears that lead to inflammation.
  5. Mental Fatigue– With normal training schedule and rest days, some days we still don’t feel like exercising or running. Dealing with every day having to force and drag ourselves out of bed feeling both mental and physical fatigue is a sign of burnout. When feeling that mental and physical fatigue, taking an extra day off or week off to recover will be important.
  6. Abnormal Heart Rate– Both elevated or reduced heart rate can be symptoms of exercise-related stress. If the heart rate exceeds 5-10 beats per minute either elevated or reduced, then we need to take some rest. Knowing our regular resting and maximum heart rate helps with performance and recovery, and reduces the risk of overtraining. If our heart rate is above normal in the morning, then we should train easy or rest. An elevated heart rate means that our body is releasing more oxygen to the brain and muscles as a result of stress hormones sending stress signals to the body. The best way to know our regular resting heart rate, is to measure it as soon as we wake up, either using a heart rate monitor or our sport watch device.


How to Calculate our Maximum Heart Rate:

Common Method- Fox Formula : 220- age= MHR

Method for Male- Tanaka Formula: 208- (age X 0.7)= MHR

Method for Female- Gulati Formula: 206- (age X 0.88)= MHR

These calculations are great to get estimates, but they’re not always completely accurate. It’s not uncommon for runners to exceed the number, that means that according to your body, the calculated number isn’t your true maximum heart rate. So for some runners, the heart rate might be slightly higher during more intense sessions, but that doesn’t mean there is heart issues.

Some research has shown that dehydration, temperature and altitude or even the time of day can affect heart rate by up to 20%.


How Long Does Overtraining Syndrome Last?

The recovery time due to overtraining depends on how intense is the fatigue and side effects. If we are dealing with adrenal fatigue, it could take months to recover by taking a break from running and training to help stabilize the body. To make sure we sleep well and enough, add some nice yoga sessions and walks can be very helpful to start getting back into a much smarter training plan according to our body and lifestyle.

Run, Rest, Recover, Run Strong!