Where’s my Mojo? – Overtraining & Mind Games

After a successful running season, many of you will be full of energy and looking forward to your next race. But while the majority will be on good form, a few of you may be less than enthralled about your running. Perhaps you feel tired and unmotivated, or maybe you’ve lost your running mojo.

A high-impact sport, running is a demanding hobby and can take it out of us. Once you’ve completed a milestone event it’s not uncommon for post-race ennui to kick in. If you’ve suddenly lost your love for the open road, now is the time to take stock and reassess your running goals.

Where’s my mojo?

Are you tired, sluggish, unmotivated and not in the mood for a run? Even the most devout runners can struggle with motivation, but it’s important to remember that it’s not permanent. More often than not it’s your body telling you to take a break, which you will benefit from in the long run.

‘Don’t beat yourself up about it!’ ‘Try not to over-analyse it, just take time out and focus on something else – maybe a form of exercise you haven’t tried before, or how about setting a fun training goal you can work towards with friends? Or just do nothing at all – you’re not going to lose any of your fitness by not training for a week or so.’

Overtraining

One of the main reasons you may be struggling with motivation is that you’ve overtrained and need a break. But how do you tell the difference between lack of motivation and overtraining?

‘To prevent overtraining, follow the 90 per cent rule. ‘When you’re doing workouts, make sure you push yourself but ensure you have some energy left over. After finishing a quality workout you should feel the burn from working hard but you should also feel like you could have done a little bit more. Overtraining occurs when you push yourself too far to complete a quality workout at maximum effort each time – this is likely to result in an injury.

‘You should also always take rest days. This is super important as your body needs rest time to rebuild the muscle tissue that has been broken down with each workout. If you prevent yourself from having rest days, your fitness level can actually decline and even cause injury.’

‘When we run we stress the body, and as the body recovers from this stress the muscles and cardiovascular system grow slightly stronger, thus making us slightly fitter/faster over a period of time,’. ‘Overtraining occurs when the period of rest between sessions is too short. The body hasn’t recovered and then more stress is placed on it. The more and more we train without letting recovery take place the worse and worse our results become and in an effort to improve we train even more, when in fact what we need to do is to stop training and have a week off running.’

But how can we identify that we’re overtrained as opposed to unmotivated? ‘The trick is knowing when recovery has taken place,’ ‘Our resting heart rate is a very good indicator of this. Taken every morning when awakening should give a pretty consistent reading. If at some point this figure is elevated by roughly 2/3 beats it means that the body is under stress. This might be because you have an illness, or one coming on, you have a hangover, you haven’t had enough sleep OR you haven’t recovered fully from your last training session. Either way this should be a rest day and hard training should not resume until the average previous resting heart rate is restored.’

Mind games

If you rely heavily on running to cope with the stress of life and struggle with the concept of taking a complete break from exercise, it may be worth looking at the bigger picture.

‘Sometimes your head may still be telling you to run – you feel you ‘ought to’ – but your body is very firmly telling you not to,’ says Ellie Barnes. ‘If that happens, listen to your body – it really does know best! To reduce the chances of pushing it too far and ending up side lined, make sure you always include rest days in your schedule, and use tapering to stay fresh.’

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