Do You Have Running Fatigue?

Running fatigue can be caused by many preventable factors! Learn to recognize and eliminate the most common causes. Interestingly, feeling low on running energy is not necessarily exclusively physical in nature but also can include mental factors. Consider some of the common causes for running fatigue below which might help to explain your individual situation.

You may have heard the saying “It takes energy to make energy”. Are you new to running or at least new to running on a regular basis? The significance of pondering this question has to do with your overall energy level in relation to your activity level. If you are commonly tired before workouts and feel like you just don’t have the gusto to go for a run, it’s very likely related to your inactivity. Anyone that has gone from a sedentary to active lifestyle will attest that since they started moving around and exercising they feel much more energized on a consistent basis. So, if you’re just starting out, give yourself some time to get into the groove and let your body have a chance to adapt.

TIP – It’s very easy to talk yourself out of a pending workout if you are feeling lethargic and low on energy; particularly if you have a high intensity or longer run ahead of you. Life is ready to provide you every good excuse you’re looking for not to run. When you’re feeling less than enthused about going for a run, try focusing on nothing more than changing into your running clothes and getting your butt out the door or on the treadmill. Commit to performing a 15 to 20 minute warm up easy run. Only after your warm up, do you then decide whether you will commit to the rest of your run. Often the feeling of fatigue you have before you start running will go away by the time you’ve gotten your warm up done i.e. 15 to 20 minutes. This frequently re-enforced to me when I wear my heart rate monitor. You may feel tired, but your heart may tell you otherwise during your run. In other words, your brain is tricking you into thinking you don’t have any gas in the tank while your low heart rate is saying ‘C’mon, pick up the pace, this feels great!’

*Read much more about the story your heart tells you on my heart rate training page!

Factors Affecting Your Energy Level

Here are some very common factors that will have a definite impact on your day to day energy level:

  • Time of day – we are all individuals with our own unique set of genetics in addition to our life routine. If you experiment with running at different times of the day, you will very likely find that there are certain periods where you will naturally have better runs than others. For example, some folks are very sensitive to the impact that daylight has on their body. Attempting to run after the sun goes down might be quite an arduous task compared to earlier in the day. Others have fantastic runs at night when compared to the morning. Experiment as much as possible with working out at different times of the day and you'll likely find the time that works best with your biology. While your body is quite adaptive, you might do well to at least perform your high intensity workouts such as intervals and tempo runs during your more suitable 'finest hours'.
  • Shift work – shift work can play havoc on your sleep patterns. Specifically, your melatonin levels which help to regulate your ability to sleep. This would of course lead to sleep deprivation which will have obvious negative affects on your energy levels and cause running fatigue. Constantly changing shifts is worse as your body might not have the opportunity to adapt and get into a pattern. If you have aggressive distance running goals and your running goals are important to you, you might want to seriously explore the possibilities of getting a more static shift - .
  • Amount of Sleep – many runners underestimate the increased need for sleep they need relative to their training volume. Being in a bedtime and morning routine that allows for a fixed amount of sleep i.e. 7 hours, it’s easy to fall into gradual sleep deprivation mode. Look at changing small things like watching TV in bed or whatever it takes to squeeze in extra sleep time. Your workout and race performances will yield you results!
  • Eating Habits – this includes not only what you eat but how and when you eat it. A low blood sugar or unstable blood sugar caused by the regular ingestion of simple sugars will have a negative impact on your energy levels. Likewise, an overstimulated nervous system due to excessive caffeine intake will have also have a big impact on your energy levels. Read more about this on the running nutrition page.
  • Hydration – enough can’t be said about keeping yourself hydrated with clean water! This is one of the single most important things you can do to help your performance, beat running fatigue and boost your overall energy level. Your body relies on water for SO many of its vital functions and it’s the key to feeling good. Do your best to get into the habit of having water bottles easily accessible at home, in the car, at the office. Half the battle is having water around to reach for. The next time you're feeling beat by running fatigueand low on energy, reconsider another coffee and go for a great big glass of cool water!
  • Over training? Overtraining is a category all in its own and the one cause of running fatigue that might not be so easy to address. There are different levels of over training. There is acute over training that is a result of trying to run too intensely too many days in a row without proper recovery. There is also chronic over training, which definitely tends to come on much more gradually over weeks and months. Acute or short term over-training will typically manifest itself as soreness or worse, injury but this type of fatigue can usually be addressed with a brief rest period. Chronic fatigue, attributed to over-training for a long period of time, because of its gradual and systematic nature can really bog you down and put you out for a significant period of time. Generally you just have a lack of energy, with sore legs. Track workouts and race performances are less than stellar despite dynamic hard training. It can also be accompanied by a general disinterest or lack of motivation to train, despite clear goals and perhaps recent good performances.

    I personally experienced chronic running fatigue due to over-training after trying to squeeze too many high quality marathons in one year without proper built in recovery periods. I attempted to balance commuting to work back and forth for several months with high mileage marathon training. It took approximately a complete 6 week break to get back to ‘normal’. It’s very difficult to know when you are chronically over training as the natural tendency for many runners who have had bad performances is to train harder, making the situation worse.

    Other than the aforementioned results of battling with on-going running fatigue which can make it obvious for you, an elevated waking resting heart rate is usually a tell tale sign that you are not recovering well from you previous day’s training and a good break may be the remedy. Check out the page on checking your

    resting heart rate to learn more about this affecitive self-monitoring procedure.




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