Pushing your limits and striving for improvement are integral aspects of marathon training. 

However, there comes a point where too much training can be detrimental to both your performance and overall well-being.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the key signs that indicate you may be overtraining and provide detailed guidance on how to avoid this common pitfall.

Understanding the Dangers of Overtraining

Overtraining occurs when the intensity and volume of your training exceed your body’s ability to recover and adapt. While pushing yourself is essential for progress, overtraining can lead to a host of negative consequences, including decreased performance, increased risk of injury, and compromised immune function. By recognizing the warning signs early on, you can take proactive steps to prevent overtraining and safeguard your long-term health.

Key Signs of Overtraining

Pain and Stiffness:

One of the most obvious signs of overtraining is persistent soreness and stiffness in your muscles and joints. This discomfort may arise from pushing yourself too hard during training sessions or ramping up your mileage too quickly. If you experience acute pain or stiffness, it’s essential to listen to your body and allow adequate time for rest and recovery.

Excessive Fatigue: 

While fatigue is a natural byproduct of intense training, excessive or unrelenting fatigue can be a red flag for overtraining. Pay attention to how you feel both during and after workouts. If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep, experiencing restless sleep, or waking up frequently throughout the night, it may indicate that your body is under excessive stress.

Changes in Appetite: 

Your appetite is a valuable indicator of your body’s energy needs. If you notice a significant decrease in appetite or find yourself forcing food down despite a lack of hunger, it could be a sign of overtraining. Elevated cortisol levels, a stress hormone associated with overtraining, can suppress appetite and disrupt normal eating patterns.

Elevated Heart Rate: 

Monitoring your resting heart rate can provide valuable insights into your training status. While fluctuations in heart rate are normal, a sustained increase in resting heart rate may indicate overtraining. Keep track of your heart rate over time and be mindful of any significant deviations from your baseline.

Mood Changes: 

Overtraining can take a toll on your mental well-being as well. If you notice unexplained mood swings, irritability, or feelings of depression or anxiety, it may be a sign that your body is under excessive stress. Pay attention to your emotional state and consider adjusting your training accordingly.

Preventing Overtraining

Recognizing the signs of overtraining is crucial, but prevention is even more important. Here are some strategies to help you avoid falling into the overtraining trap:

Listen to Your Body: 

Pay attention to how you feel during training and prioritize rest and recovery when needed. Don’t ignore persistent pain or fatigue, as these are often early warning signs of overtraining.

Follow a Balanced Training Plan: 

Structure your training program to include adequate rest days, cross-training, and periodization to prevent burnout and overuse injuries.

Prioritize Recovery: 

Incorporate recovery strategies such as foam rolling, stretching, and proper nutrition into your routine to support your body’s recovery process.

Monitor Training Load: 

Keep track of your training volume and intensity, and avoid sudden spikes in mileage or intensity that can increase the risk of overtraining.

Seek Professional Guidance: 

If you’re unsure about your training approach or experiencing persistent symptoms of overtraining, don’t hesitate to seek guidance from a qualified coach or healthcare professional.

Find out which Marathon Training plan you should be following

Incorporating Recovery Strategies

In addition to recognizing the signs of overtraining and taking preventive measures, incorporating effective recovery strategies into your routine is essential for maintaining optimal performance and reducing the risk of injury. Here are some key recovery techniques to consider:

  1. Foam Rolling: Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release that helps alleviate muscle tension and improve flexibility. Incorporate foam rolling into your post-workout routine to release tight muscles and promote recovery.
  1. Stretching: Stretching is crucial for maintaining flexibility and preventing muscle imbalances. Focus on dynamic stretches before workouts to prepare your muscles for activity and static stretches after workouts to improve flexibility and reduce muscle soreness.
  1. Nutrition: Proper nutrition is vital for supporting your body’s recovery process and replenishing glycogen stores. Fuel your body with a balanced diet that includes a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to optimize recovery and performance.
  1. Hydration: Hydration plays a critical role in recovery and performance. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day and replenish electrolytes lost through sweat during workouts.
  1. Rest and Sleep: Adequate rest and sleep are essential for recovery and adaptation. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night and prioritize rest days to allow your body to recover fully from intense training sessions.

Overtraining is a common pitfall that can derail your training and hinder your performance goals. By recognizing the warning signs of overtraining and implementing effective preventive measures and recovery strategies, you can optimize your training, minimize the risk of injury, and achieve peak performance on race day. Remember to listen to your body, prioritize rest and recovery, and seek professional guidance if needed to ensure a safe and successful training journey.


With a passion for high performance sport – Lindsey Parry is one of South Africa’s most widely recognised coaches. Having led a team to the London, Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games as well as the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, the Gold Coast & Birmingham, and coached both triathletes and runners onto podiums of some of the world’s most illustrious races, Lindsey has a unique ability to understand what it takes to succeed at any level and thrives on coaching, motivating and inspiring others to do the same – whether it’s on the track, on stage or behind a mic.

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