If you are overtraining, you will feel tired, your legs feel like lead, you will not recover in the same amount of time as you usually do, and your friends and family will think you are grouchy. A solid way to determine if you have recovered from your previous day’s workout is to check your resting heart rate. First, you have to know what your resting heart rate is. You should take your pulse when you first get up in the morning before you have moved around. It is best if you can just wake up naturally (without the alarm) and count your heart rate for 30 seconds and times by two. That is your resting heart rate. If you get up in the morning and your heart rate is elevated, your body has not recovered and you should take a rest day or take it easy. Most runners run four to five days a week and take one day a week as full rest. The days you do not run, you can do some other form of exercise or nothing at all.
The golden rule for increasing miles is the 10% a week rule. If you follow this rule, you reduce your risk of injury and overtraining. Never increase your total miles by more than ten percent a week. So, if you are running three days a week and you want to add a fourth day you have two options. You can decrease your runs on the other three days and add the fourth day with the extra 10%. As an example, say you run three miles Monday, four miles Wednesday, and 3 miles on Friday. You want to add Saturday. Your total for the week is ten miles. One mile is 10%. You could safely run two and a half Monday, three Wednesday, two and a half Friday, and three on Saturday. The next week you could do three miles on all four days. The other option would be to just start to build the Saturday using the 10%.
Coupled with the golden 10% rule is a 20% decrease rule, which should occur every four weeks allowing your body to rest and rebuild. When you run, you cause micro tears in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of your legs. This is a good thing overall because it allows you to build and get stronger. However, if you don’t rest every so often then your body does not have a chance to build and will continue to break down. Every fourth week reduce your miles by 20% to allow your body to rest. You should also be taking at least one full day of rest every week for the same reasons. If you don’t rest, you will end up injured and forced to rest. It is a million times easier to take a day off a week and reduce your miles every fourth week, than to miss a race because you pushed it too far.