» Running Too Much

Running Too Much

January 21, 2012 | Steven McElwee

When I started running, my lungs burned. After several weeks, having improved my breathing, my calves started to hurt. Next, it was my shins, then my feet, and eventually my legs ached pretty much everywhere. I knew from what I read that recovery was important, but my mind became obsessed with how to recover so that I could run several days in a row.

It was not that I could not run. My distances were increasing. In six months, I went from struggling to run one mile to running 20 miles a week. My long runs were ten miles, and I ran two short runs of five miles each on weekdays. To increase my weekly total meant adding another day or two to my schedule.

But how could I break through my miles with such agonizing recovery? I stretched more frequently, donned compression socks, experimented with massage, iced the achy spots, elevated my legs, and popped ibuprofen. Nothing worked consistently, especially after long runs.

I soon found that my running speed, which was already too slow for my taste, was not improving. I had assumed that increasing my distance would naturally help my running speed. Yet in all of my miles, my pace plateaued.

After seven months of running, I realized that I was pushing too hard for distance. I decided to make some changes. First, I stopped worrying about my weekly mileage tally. Next, I cut back my two weekday runs to just three miles each. Finally I trimmed my long runs to six miles on Saturdays. While I thought this would help prevent my achiness, l was concerned that it may set back my training. It may jeopardize my goal of running a half-marathon later this year.

After three weeks on my easy-does-it schedule, I found that I spent very little time worrying about recovery. I still wore compression socks after my runs, but I had very few aches and pains.

I started a new schedule to pick up my pace, despite the short distances. I run three days a week and cross-train three days in between my runs. For my first run of the week, I use speed intervals, called Fartleks. My second run is a tempo run, and my third is a long run. It really worked well for me. My pace improved and my legs started to feel fine.

The lesson I learned – do not run too much too early. New runners must give their muscles, joints, and tendons time to strengthen. Listen to your feet and legs when you are recovering in between runs. If they are regularly sore and you are obsessing about recovery, cut back and ramp up more slowly. As a rule of thumb, increase your weekly miles no more than 10% each week – seems like sage advice.

2 Comments

Tess on March 7, 2012 at 6:41 am.

Oh yes, I’ve gotten furstrated with training before. For almost event I’ve trained for I have exclaimed over it and then kept on training because I know quitting doesn’t do much for my self esteem.However a few years ago I was training for a 1/2 marathon. I was on a long run and halfway through it I realized I wasn’t enjoying myself, truly wasn’t enjoying myself, so there that minute I stopped running and walked home. It was hard for me b/c I hate to quit but I knew it was the best decision. Someday I’d like to cross that one off my list but my body really isn’t suited for long runs or it’s not my strength anyway. A few months ago I started competing in taekwondo b/c it fits my personality and my strengths are speed and flexibility. I ADMIRE you runners A LOT. I’m really not sure how you do it! It takes some real mental fortitude. Looking forward to meeting you at fitbloggin’ Jenn (GH) recently posted..

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Steven on March 11, 2012 at 8:27 am.

Thanks for commenting. Sorry to hear that you gave up running. It’s important that you find an exercise you enjoy, so I’m glad you found tae kwon do. I found that long runs were really killing my legs. After cutting back from 20 miles a week to 12 miles a week, I have found that my enjoyment has gone up, my running has gotten faster, and I spend less time in recovery. I was hoping to complete a half marathon this year, but I will be happy with a 10K and I’ll ramp up more slowly to a half next year.

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