The last several weeks leading up to a marathon are critical. Months have gone into training and there are still a couple of long runs to get in. Many runners feel the urge to up their training, just to make sure they are ready. This has the potential for creating an environment for overtraining. Overtraining is a complicated syndrome where an athlete feels fatigued and loses the oomph they once possessed.
It’s true that in order to improve, an athlete must push beyond the comfort zone. However, most training plans have built into the plan a time to train hard and recovery time. It always surprises me that runners will chose a training plan, (assuming that they respect the coach that created the plan) and then in crunch time, second guess the plan and add more intensity and distance.
Studies show that overtraining syndrome creates a decrease in performance, a decrease in mood, effects the immune system and slows the body’s ability to repair itself. Athletes will feel lethargic, be unable to sleep, have a decrease in appetite and again will slow down or the workouts will feel harder.
Physiological improvements in a sport take place only during the rest that follows hard training. During recovery (and sleep), the muscles, heart, intake of oxygen, glycogen stores and mitochondrial enzyme system in the muscle cells all improve. These allow an athlete to perform at a higher level. If an athlete doesn’t allow rest and recovery then regeneration cannot occur. Trying to work harder during this period only exacerbates the problem.
It’s best to avoid overtraining. Follow the recovery and rest periods I am pretty sure are embedded in your training plan. With weeks away to a marathon, keep with the program. Here’s wishing a great race to all.