Best way to overcome running fatigue while training for a marathon

Kayaking in Phuket

I generally spend a lot of time on my legs throughout the day. I try to walk or bike wherever possible and also prefer standing to sitting. Training for a marathon only adds more stress to my lower body, as I squeeze runs into my day. But there is a thing I do to overcome running fatigue, though. I cross-train.

I also try to do all my running first thing in the morning or early in the day. That way I can reward myself with sitting or using the public transport or being lazy if I feel fatigued later.

Athletes should aim to minimize fatigue in their training. Working out when you are fresh and full of energy improves performance and prevents injuries. It is when we start to accumulate fatigue it’s time to take a break and mix things up a bit.

Training through fatigue is never good. It can be done only at very low intensity to increase the mileage or recover.

Accumulated muscle fatigue is not your friend

Don’t get me wrong. Some degree of fatigue is good and is required to stimulate muscle growth and adaptation. 

Every athlete faces fatigue at some point during their training – there’s no other way around it. But it has to be very short and athletes should be able to recover from it quickly.

When athletes add too much intensity to their plan without allowing the body to fully recover fatigue starts to accumulate. It decreases performance, mood and motivation

Fatigue can be hard to notice sometimes, which is why periods of rest have to be planned in advance.

Once fatigue starts to accumulate, our bodies start to lose the ability to produce energy efficiently. This leads to loss of endurance in a short and long term. Even if you’re not an endurance athlete, accumulated fatigue will ultimately slow down recovery and slowly bring your mood down like a balloon that is leaking air. Maybe even with a similar sound.

We are all fresh and ready for action on Saturday morning after sleeping a bit more, right? Complete recovery in action.

The main path to overcome running fatigue (and any other for that matter) is to have a well-organized training and nutrition plan that will speed up muscle recovery. It will prevent fatigue from accumulating too much, have recovery weeks scheduled and also include cross-training.

Introducing cross-training

Cross-training is stepping out of your primary sport and trying something else. The main advantage is that it targets muscle groups we don’t use much and/or reduces stress on those we actively do.

As we develop other parts of our body, muscles get as efficient as a well-rehearsed barbershop quartet. They get better at moving lactic acid from fatigued muscles and utilizing it. This is great for everybody, as it speeds up the whole recovery process.

It is very important to do this at low intensity, though. If we get carried away we risk accumulating even more fatigue.

How to overcome running fatigue
Don’t forget to keep the training plan fun. Add exciting activities to help overcome running fatigue, but remember to keep them at low intensity.

How cross-training helps to overcome running fatigue

Too much running may cause leg muscles and especially hips to tighten up, which is never good. At best it will prevent an athlete from reaching his best and at worst it may end up in injury like a Runner’s knee or IT Band syndrome.

Sometimes when we train too much it’s not enough to just sleep it off. Or eat it off, for that matter.

First thing to do to overcome running fatigue using cross-training is to reduce the amount of running for a while. You can substitute it with cycling that uses the same muscle groups, but doesn’t put excessive pressure on muscles and joints. This will allow to keep the efficiency and endurance we worked so hard to build.

Next we should start working on the upper body to speed up lactic acid utilization from our tight legs. Swimming is perfect for general endurance and muscle development – it doesn’t have any vibration/impact and will help to develop upper body and core strength. I try to add it several times a week for a general fitness.

Substituting running for a core workout or even a session of Pilates or yoga is much better that training through fatigue. These low intensity workouts build strong core that helps to distribute stress across the body more evenly.

How I overcome running fatigue during marathon training

I tried to include as much training as possible this week to be able to get into peak form before a race in a couple of weeks.

It felt quite good – a total of 9 hours of solid training where I mixed 3 morning swims, 5 runs, several bike commutes and one hike. I started first speed workouts as well – 400m intervals with 400m rest in between.

Those intervals were really tough. I feel that I accumulated some fatigue there, so I did a couple of very easy runs to speed up recovery. 

I also did a short steady run this week – only 6K. It’s not as much as you would expect in preparation for a marathon, but I have a race upcoming and don’t want to risk adding more fatigue after speed intervals earlier in the week. 

I did a first 2-hour-long run on Saturday and went hiking on Sunday to end the week on a bang. 

My average pace of 5:15 throughout the whole run impressed me a lot – it was my first run above 1:30, so I was not sure how it will go.

I think I nailed the balance this week and feel very good so far. Looking forward to next weeks.

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