5 overtraining indicators that precede running injury - DOC

5 overtraining indicators that precede running injury

Today on the Doc On The Run podcast, we’re talking about the 5 overtraining indicators that precede running injury.


Most of the time when I see runners and they get an overtraining injury, whether it’s a metatarsal stress fracture, or Achilles tendonitis, or some sort of overuse injury that happens from supposedly running too much, a lot of runners are actually surprised that it happened.

But then when I sit down and talk to them, and we talk about how they were feeling in the weeks or maybe even months before they got the overtraining injury, it’s really not surprising to me that they got injured. 

Had they just recognize some of those sort of signals or indicators that you were in a state of overtraining, and knew you were at risk of higher probability of getting a running injury, you could have backed off a little bit, rested a little more, or done something a little differently to make sure you didn’t actually get that injury.

1. Soreness lingers for more than a day

I wanted to talk today about the five things that I see the most often that seem to be these indicators that actually do precede any overtraining injury among runners. Now, the very first one is soreness that lingers for more than a day.

It’s just not really complicated. When you go out and train, if you run hard, you’re going to be sore, you’re going to have muscle soreness, you’re going to have achiness all over the place and that’s normal, but that stuff usually dissipates within a day or so.

What is more notable is that if you have soreness that not only lingers, but it becomes more focal, meaning it really seems to be in one place more than it was the day before, then that’s really an indicator that you’re heading for an overtraining injury. If you have calf soreness, for example, that you noticed two days after your speed session, and every thing else that was sore is kind of feeling better but you have a little bit of soreness left in this one spot, that’s a key indicator that you’re really at risk of a muscle strain or some sort of overtraining injury in that particular spot. You have to really watch for that.

Any kind of soreness that just doesn’t really dissipate as fast as the usual, delayed onset muscle soreness that you get after typical workouts, that’s a signal to you that something’s wrong and you should either back off and rest a little bit more, skip a workout, try to sleep a little bit more that night or talk to your coach, but you’ve got to do something to make sure that you don’t turn that into an overtraining injury.

2. Feeling exhausted 

The second thing is just feeling exhausted. When people enter a state of chronic overtraining, you will definitely feel depleted all day, every day, and that can evolve into this state where your immune system actually gets depressed, and then you’re not repairing tissue as effectively nor as efficiently. You continue to ramp up your workouts in duration and intensity, and that’s when all of these things kind of coincide to put you at the highest risk of an overtraining injury like a metatarsal stress fracture, or a plantar plate sprain, or a plantar fasciitis, or Achilles tendonitis or any of the other common overtraining injuries. You have to recognize that.

If you feel really exhausted and you’re not sure whether or not that’s really true, you can just check your resting heart rate. If your resting heart rate is higher than normal, that’s a key indicator that something’s going on, you got to talk to your coach and figure out what’s happening so you don’t wind up injured.

3. Stressed out feeling

The third thing is you feel stressed out. If you have a really stressful period in your life, whether that’s your personal relationships, or a work situation or anything, a family situation, whatever, and you’re feeling stressed out, you are at risk of a stress-related injury. We always refer to things like stress fractures as running injuries, as something where it’s biomechanical problem, too much pounding or all of that, but the fact is that all overtraining injuries are stress-induced injuries. It’s where you get too much stress applied to one tissue and then it breaks down.

This is true of emotional stress, environmental stressors, all these other things that can happen to you throughout the course of training that can compound the stress that you apply from your workouts. So if you’re feeling stressed out, you’re feeling anxious, that’s an indicator that you may be heading for a running injury, so you’ve got to be careful and pay particular attention to what’s going on in your workout so you don’t get injured.

4. Your diet takes a backseat 

The fourth thing is when your diet starts to take a backseat. When you become so busy that you’re really not eating the way that you should, you’re not eating as frequently as you should or with the range of nutrients that you know your body needs in order to be rebuilding tissue effectively and efficiently to recover and repair the tissue damage that you did in your workout before you re-damage that tissue with another workout. Because all an overtraining injury is, is when you get compounded tissue damage that is not fully repaired from one workout to the next and then it supposedly blows up on you.

The fact is, as you’ve been compounding it, so it really is giving you an indication. You have some soreness, it doesn’t feel right, you feel slow, you’re changing your gait or whatever, but it doesn’t just happen suddenly. The key there is that you have to be able to repair that tissue, that takes dietary input, it takes good nutrition, it takes frequency of input. If your diet isn’t really something that you’re paying attention to, you might be heading for an overtraining injury.

5. Difficulty sleeping

The last thing is poor sleep patterns. One of the first things that happens when you get really overtrained, you enter a state of overtraining and you become high risk for an overtraining injury, is that your sleep quality starts to decline. You have to pay a close attention to that. If you realize that you’re waking up multiple times a night, then your body’s going through something, either you’re stressed out or you’re over-trained. But then it all compounds itself because, of course, you don’t heal tissue while you’re awake, you heal tissue while you’re resting, and when you’re asleep is when you have the most tissue repair.


If you have a question that you would like answered as a future addition of the Doc On The Run Podcast, send it to me PodcastQuestion@docontherun.com. And then make sure you join me for the next edition of the Doc On The Run Podcast!