jen’s experience with overtraining (aka “Surprisingly, your body DOES know best”)

warning: long blog post ahead!

for the last 12-14 months, i was riding the diet & exercise wagon pretty hard. i swear to god i read every single possible article on the internets i could find related to exercise and nutrition. i also worked my ass off at the gym. and then i decided to sign up for a half marathon. and then i decided to sign up for femsport.

to anyone reading this, you’re either saying “whoa! she’s hardcore!” or “whoa, burnout alert!”

unfortunately the latter was true; i found myself exhausted from every muscle fiber to every neuron in my brain – i was done. i suddenly was in survival mode; however, i had no idea at the time. when i ran, everything hurt. when i tried to weight train, i just couldn’t do it – i simply didn’t have it in me.

i tried to solve it by simply eating more.

lesson #1: you cannot solve overtraining by eating more. just like a car, no matter how often you refill the fuel tank, it has a limit to how far, how fast, and how efficient it can go.

so, if upping my food intake wasn’t helping, then what next? feeling utterly exhausted, and still in ‘survival mode’, i thought: hm, well, i guess i will focus on only running, and some yoga. i kept up my running schedule, though – those base miles are very important! i hurt for almost every single run. i can’t quite explain the pain, but my initial thought was, “why does this feel painful?” which was immediately combatted with “I am sure everyone feels this.” I assumed the regular chit chat about tough workouts, or feeling the burn, or simply that it was painful in the same way that reviewing detailed business requirements is painful, was all referring to my pain.

lesson #2: if you’re gut is questioning the pain, there is probably something to it. running should be hard, challenging, even invigorating if you will – but it really shouldn’t be painful. time to listen to your body… maybe re-assess what you’re doing.

regardless of the pain, i kept training. race time quickly approached, and i found my legs aching all the time leading up to the race. i honestly questioned if i should even bother showing up. i dismissed those thoughts. race day was here. per my previous post, by kilometer 4, i was kinda wanting to throw in the towel. i decided to take more electrolyte chews than normal that day, and my running partner (and running room instructor) helped me to realize that my pain subsided and i was able to pick up the pace!

lesson #3: you need sodium, potassium, calories, and water to properly fuel your body! you also need a particular amount that only your body knows. in all my article reading (aka researching – i truly am an analyst at heart), i decided to follow the guideline “you only need electrolyte supplements if you’ve been running for at least 1 hr, or 10km”. well, that didn’t work for me! my body was telling me the whole time, but i was ignoring it, thinking all the articles i read online, and all the people i spoke to, knew what was best for me. when i start my long runs again in mid-April, I will be taking electrolytes 15-30min in! note: this isn’t to say that everyone else should take electrolytes 15-30min in… i recommend experimenting! every single machine (aka HUMAN BODY!) is completely different… maybe your body doesn’t even need the supplements!

on a less chronological note, i would also like to mention our friend, STRESS . think of stress in the most basic way: physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension (there were 9 other definitions on, but lets focus on this one for my point). this definition refers to physical (training), mental (work) or emotional (home, relationships). your body has no clue which of those 3 sources a period of stress is originating from, it just knows it is stressed and it responds. although i don’t have a specific “point in time” example to give you, the entire time i overtrained, i was also mentally and emotionally stressed. so… i tripled the stress on my body, and my mind, body, and soul all went a little cuckoo.

lesson #4:  if you’re having a tough time at work, or any relationship issues and you find yourself just tired… the treadmill or weights look like some kind of jail sentence… you might want to reconsider the gym once in a while. invest in a night of rest for your body – i mean, as far as its concerned, that fight you had with your boss was a bit of a workout!


i cannot believe i blurbed on this long. this is an important topic for me; it was quite a life lesson. overtraining is so easy to get into; it’s a rut you just wake up in one day because you’ve been head-down-ass-up. a piece of advice i read once: Overtraining leads to burnout and injury, and ultimately moving backwards in your progression; undertraining just means slower progress. surprisingly, your body is a pretty smart, well run machine; it knows best.


2 thoughts on “jen’s experience with overtraining (aka “Surprisingly, your body DOES know best”)

  1. cool post! It is somewhat amazing how this is a revelation to most people (myself included). People seem to assume that they need to be told how much exercise, food, sleep etc. they require, without realizing that everybody is different!

  2. … And there is definitely NOT a shortage of people willing to tell us what we “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing!

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