One thing we want to do as runners is increase our mileage. Right? If we go longer, that means we can go harder. When we’re going shorter, we get more fitness, and we become better runners, which is what we want, right? It’s why we do it. We enjoy it, we want to be good. But is running too much bad for you?
If you haven’t been with me here before, I’m Jesse Funk. This is a show I call Runner’s High, where we talk about everything running from the psychological to the physical, and everything in between. So, hit that subscribe button, stick around with me here on the channel so you see more running videos in the future.
Now, let’s talk about the topic for today, is running too much bad for you? Now, this is a question some people asked and have asked me. They are thinking about a variety of things. So, we could have to define our parameters, right? What is too much? And what do you mean by bad for you? Sometimes I get these comments and they say, “Hey, I’m doing this thing. Is this bad?” And it often ends up with, “Well, it depends. What are your goals? What are the purposes of the things that you’re doing?” All those kind of things. So, is running too much bad for you?
Now, too much can really be anything. I mean, too much for me, would be trying to take on 100-mile weeks. Actually, I’m well below that right now. I’m still building in my like 40 miles again, here after I’m coming off of a decade of triathlon training, trying to transition back to run only, I’m still building up.
If I tried to jump into 100-mile weeks, yes, that would be too much and it would be bad for me. Because I’m probably going to end up injured, because I simply cannot handle that load. So, anytime you’re jumping a huge amount, that is a situation where running too much is definitely going to be bad for you.
There are some coaches I know of in college, who kind of make a make or break situation and they say, “Hey, we’re running 100-mile weeks. If you make it, great, if you don’t, you’re shit out of luck and go on your way.” I think this is a terrible approach. I’m not a fan of those coaches. I think they shortchange those athletes, both because they’re student-athletes, and because as people, you’re basically saying, hey, you can either cut the mustard or you can’t.
And they kind of ignore the whole part about where high mileage isn’t necessarily the perfect way to get everybody to perform at their best level. But diatribe aside, let’s continue to examine the other ways on whether running too much is bad for you.
The next thing we want to think about is if we get ourselves into a large hole fatigue-wise and we’re unable to recover, this is referred to as overtraining, or overtraining syndrome, one or the other. When we’re overtrained, we continue to run, but we don’t allow our body time to recover. And we basically keep pushing ourselves down and down and down. The basic training cycle is that we work out, it tears our muscles up, we lose fitness because of this workout. Then through recovery, our body overcompensates and becomes stronger than it was before.
When you don’t allow for this recovery process, then you end up in overtraining. And that’s where you’re running too much and it is bad for you. Because you’re not going to recover, you’re going to end up in this cycle of injury, illness, and definitely like mental fatigue. There’s a few signs here where you know that you’re running too much and physicality hasn’t caught up to you, that kind of dragging physical sensation hasn’t caught up to you, if your mind starts nagging at you.
And I don’t mean that, like, “Hey, I’m out for a long run and I’m stretching myself just a little bit. You know, I’ve done 10 miles before now I’m going out for 11 miles a week or two later.”
I’m talking about before you even go out, it’s like “I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to go out for a run.” And normally, normally your mentality, not a problem. I experienced this a lot when I first started triathlon training when I was trying to become a pro triathlete. I was spending a lot of time in the pool. I’d amped up my mileage pretty quickly. And I just got this sense of like anxiety and dread anytime I had to go to the pool.
And there was this whole ritual too, you know, you got to get in the car, you got to drive, you got to change -- Like there’s this whole thing and it’s just dread leading up to it. I experienced this and ignored it for a long time. Because I said, “Well, this is what the pros do. This is what I need to do if I want to be a pro. So, get in, shut up. Get it done.”
And it didn’t go well for me. It made training unbearable. And in my case, I was swimming, but you can experience this when you’re running. And if you’re going through this, reduce your mileage immediately, immediately. Today, right now, reduce your mileage. You’re going to get to the point where you will be able to see clearly and know, “Hey, that was too much for me.” And maybe you can get back there. Maybe you can get to that point, but you’re going to have to go at it probably slower.
Because you’re at a point, a load of running, where it was too much for you, and it was bad for you. So, your brain will do these things. It’s trying to protect itself, it’s trying to protect your body, it’s this central governor trying to tell you about all the things going on. So, pay attention to those signs from your brain, that, hey, maybe you’re running too much, and it’s bad for you.
The other thing to look out for physically, is if you’re having trouble maintaining your running form, or if you’re very, very easily fatigued, you’re just dragging the rest of the day. Every single day, you’re dragging yourself out of bed, dragging yourself to get to the run, you simply have no energy anymore. There are a lot of things that can go on when you run too much for your body for what you’re adapted to. And part of that can be hormone imbalances, which leads to these kinds of symptoms of fatigue. And kind of, again, down that rabbit hole of overtraining, overtraining syndrome.
So, if your form, your running form has adjusted, and you’re hobbling or you notice that you’re leaning back instead of leaning forward, or you’re doing weird stuff, then, you know, hey, I’m running too much. And it’s not just hey, you went out for a run, you’re a little sore because you increased mileage, and then you warm up and you run normally. It’s if it’s persistent. And this is something that I see people do. They’re out for runs, I go run around where I live and I see people out and they’re hobbling around. They’re limping while they’re running, and they need to stop because they’ve been running too much they’ve ended up injured, and they’re trying to push through it.
They probably are well-intentioned, just trying to keep themselves fit. But it would probably be better for them in the long term, if they took some time off, rehab, that kind of thing, and then got back to running. So, that’s another case where running too much can be bad for you physically. And those are the symptoms physically of what’s going on when your running gait changes.
It’s very difficult to see this. So, if you have a running partner, and they say something, “Hey, are you feeling all right?” Pay attention to what they’re saying because it’s hard to see yourself. There’s not many opportunities we see ourselves when we’re out running against mirrors or against shops, doesn’t happen very often. So, pay attention if your running partner says something.
So, do I want to say for sure that running too much is bad for you? Well, like I said in the video, at the beginning of the video, it depends. It depends, right? It depends on your mileage, it depends on you. But if you experience any of the symptoms that I talked about in this video, then you know that you are probably running too much, and in that condition, it is bad for you. It is a very personal thing, the mileage is that each of us can maintain is going to be different. And that’s partially determined on our training history, it’s partially determined on our genetics.
I can’t control those things. I can’t tell you exactly where your limit is. But looking out for those symptoms is the best way that you can know, hey, this running at this level is probably bad for me. Otherwise, if you’re increasing mileage, you’re recovering plenty, you still feel good, all these things; upping your mileage is not going to be bad for you as long as you’re getting that recovery.
So, do you have any questions for me you’d like answered on future episodes of Runner’s High? Leave them in the comments below. And I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.