how to know if you’re overtraining and an epic philly weekend.

We interrupt my regularly scheduled Running 101 blog post to bring you some fun stuff from this last weekend and a discussion that I think we all need to take a minute to stop and have.

Obviously we’re going to start with the fun portion.  This weekend I went in to Philly to meet-up with some girls that I met on the Internet.  Scandalous, I know.  But actually, these girls are amazing.  I have been getting together with them at least once a month for the past couple of months to do a workout and grab some brunch.  What started out as 25 girls meeting in a random training center on the border of Pennsylvania has quickly grown to over 100 girls getting together in a massive gym to get our sweat on.

I went in a day early to help set-up and run some errands ie. getting massive balloons filled and stuffed into my car.  Insane size of balloons documented below.

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And after a long night ballooning and finishing up some last minute surprises for the next day, some girls and I had a sleepover which was more fun than I’ve had in a long time.

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And finally, the day came where I got to workout with 100+ amazing girls and sweat to my hearts content which was beyond awesome.  I can’t even begin to explain how much fun it is to get together and do this.  I’m a firm believer that working out with friends is 1,000,000x better than working out alone.  Nothing like suffering together to really make you push yourself.

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I loved the workout and was so sweaty by the end, but I hadn’t burned all that many calories.  Usually, this would have me going to the gym to finish up my workout later and make sure it really “counted”, but I didn’t do this this time because I’m really trying to catch myself and stop overtraining.

I’ll be the first to tell you I have a semi-addictive personality.  When I do something, I do it all or nothing and that is no different with working out.  There can also be intense pressure to make sure you keep up with your workouts and keep pushing yourself with the advent of social media.  Just because someone went to the gym for two hours today and burned 1000 calories does not mean that you do too!  And you know what, they’re probably doing more harm then good.

This brings me to the topic of overtraining.  Overtraining is when a person has decreased performance when a certain level or training load exceeds their capacity for recovery.  So basically, your body is working too hard and stressing itself out too much to full recover and make advancements.

Every time you work out, you’re stressing your system and making tiny tears in your muscles.  The longer you workout and the higher the intensity, the more you need to repair those muscles after.  If your muscles don’t get a chance to heal and repair, you risk injury and creating muscle imbalances because of it.

So, what are some symptoms of overtraining?  Muscle fatigue, injury, change in sleep patterns, elevated resting heart rate (this is a good way to track it.  If you have a HR monitor, track your resting heart rate over a couple of days and see if anything is out of wack), lowered immune system (never get sick and now you’re always feeling under the weather?  alert.alert. you’re probably overtraining), mood swings/irritability, hormone imbalances, increased water retention, and burnout.

These aren’t all the systems in the world, but these are some good ones to be aware of.  The main take away is that you don’t have to train hard every single day of the week.  More often than not this can be more detrimental than anything.  Listen to your body and for the love of God, take a rest day.

If you do not take a rest day at least once a week, you’re doing it wrong.  I don’t care how much you feel you need that extra workout, you don’t.  You need time for your muscles to heal if you want them to get stronger.  It’s just a fact.  Give yourself that break, take a breather, and you will come back swinging even stronger.

-sj

running 101: different types of runs and a training calculator

Why is it so cold?!  Motivation to do anything goes down even further with every drop of a degree.  But, I haven’t missed a workout yet including my decision to run outside when it was a tropical 20 degrees Fahrenheit.  I decided on Wednesday that I had to get outside to get my run done especially if I was going to do this whole half marathon.  Why it can’t be inside on a warm and comfortable treadmill will continue to baffle me.  So, after talking myself in and out of running maybe 30 times.  I donned my two pairs of pants, gloves filled with hot-hands, and a pair of heavy duty ear warmers and set off.

I was getting pretty bored with my usual route, so I made a note of paying more attention to areas with long stretch of trail and/or sidewalk in my neighborhood so I could try something out.  I was driving out to one of those areas, scouring for a place to park, when I took a left turn on to a tiny, secluded side street that took me to the cutest, most beautiful park I’d seen in awhile.

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There was no one around at all and it was so peaceful and enjoyable, even though I was freezing my butt off.  I set off on my run and had planning on taking it pretty easy, but I just wanted to get it over with, so I picked up the pace averaging 7:37 for 4 miles.  Not terrible, but not necessarily what I was going for.

You see, there’s a difference in runs.  Some people think that when you go for a run you go at your max speed for your max time and that’s it.  In fact, this is exactly what I thought when I first started running.  Every run in my mind had to be better than my last or else I clearly wasn’t progressing.

Boy, was I wrong.  If you keep running consistently at the same pace for the same distance a) you’re never going to get faster or further b) you’re probably going to injure yourself and no body wants that.

A smart running plan is a plan that varies.  Here are a couple of different runs you should add into your arsenal to keep your training productive and enjoyable.

If you want to know how to pace yourself for all of these different types of runs, check out this calculator.  Go to the training intensity calculator and put in your highest pace for a mile, 5k, 10k, or half marathon and it will give you the speeds you should be training with.

Different Types of Runs:

  • Easy Runs:  Whenever I tell someone I did a 5 mile easy run, they scoff at me and say “Yeah right, 5 miles will never be easy”.  Not true at all.  Easy runs should make up 70% of your weekly training runs and should be run 1-2 minutes slower than your goal pace runs.  These should be comfortable, conversational runs that keep your heart rate at about 60-70% of your max.  Consider these types of runs your “reward” for all of your harder work.
  • Long Runs: Long runs are runs when you’re focusing on endurance.  If your focusing on distance, it’s not always necessary to focus on speed.  Try slowing it down and making one of your easy runs one of your long runs.  When adding on distance to your long run, try not to add more than 10% of your mileage per week.  So if you’re running 10 miles a week the first week, progress to 11 miles the next week, 12 the next and so on.  This will help keep away injury and help build on miles safely.
  • Speed Work: This is where the real work happens.  Speed work is usually done in an interval format at a pace that is quicker than your normal pace.  Workouts that work for speedwork include different distance repeats, time repeats etc.  HIIT work counts as speed work so yes, your 30:30 intervals are helping you get quicker.  Ever wonder how track distances match up on the treadmill?  Take one of the distances below and repeat 4, 6, 8 or 10 times depending on desired intensity.  The farther the distance, the less repeats you will want to complete.  Between each repeat, dial down the speed and move for half the distance or less until the next repeat.
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  • Fartleks:  Not just an awesome word, but an awesome way to run.  Fartlek is a Swedish word that means “Speed Play”.  The goal for this type of run is to switch up your paces.  Start easy and then go faster for a minute or two and then back down again and continue to keep switching around as often as you want.  I find these runs to be the best when I listen to music.  Every time the chorus comes, I pick up the speed until it’s over, then it’s back to a more comfortable pace.  This is a great run to do outside too.  Switch it up and see how it goes.
  • Progressions: Progressions are awesome for working on negative splits (running a race with the second half faster than the first).  Progressions have each mile run a little bit faster than the last.  If you run your first mile at a 9 mile pace, run the next in 8:55, and the next in 8:50 and so on.
  • Hill Repeats: I’m not kidding when I say this is speedwork in disguise.  You will never feel faster than when you’re finished running hills, I guarantee it.  I prefer to do my hill repeats on a treadmill since I live in a pretty flat area.  I set the treadmill to a 3, 4, or 5% incline and choose one of the distances listed above and repeat the same way I do my speedwork, but at a much slower pace.  I usually am running 9:30 miles or slower during my speedwork because my heart is PUMPING.  Don’t be scared of taking it slower than your used to, you will feel the benefits, I promise.
  • Tempo: These runs are best when you’re training for a race.  The goal is to stay consistent and to pace yourself.  In a tempo run, you pick a pace that you’re aiming for and you run as close to that pace as possible.  Say you want to run 4 miles in 32 minutes.  Each one of those miles will be run in at an 8 minute per mile pace or as close to that pace as possible.

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When you’re starting out, keep yourself motivated and interested by trying out different types of runs.  Not only will this make you a better, stronger runner, but it will challenge your mind as well and make you actually look forward to something different every time you get out there.

Workout:  Play around with some speedwork.  Start with a warm-up of a half a mile and then choose a distance from the table above and repeat it 4 times as fast as you can.

-sj