Am I overtrained? Lost my fitness?

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  • #54184

    Hi everybody!

    Late last month I noticed the pain in my knees get worse and worse so I decided to take some time off and rehab my (self diagnosed) runner’s knee. The only training I’ve done since is the strengthening exercises (around 6 hours/week) and my knees now feel much better, planning to start training again next week.

    When I was training I got up to 17 hours/week and other than the pain in my knees I didn’t notice anything unusual going on with me. Since I stopped, I noticed that my heart rate increased significantly. Is this a consequence of not training and my sedentary lifestyle or sign that I’m overtrained? To be fair, I mainly noticed this at night, after the strength training.

    Before having to stop I had just got rid of my AeT and now I’m almost afraid to find out how much fitness I’ve lost.

    What are your experiences with taking a break from training?

  • Moderator
    Thomas Summer, MD on #54191

    Hi Alex!

    How long was the break from training? An increase in HR is quite typical after a break. Especially if you were doing a lot of training. 17h (of running!?) is really a lot of training! Why are you training so much and does it match your performance level? Since you asked if you could be overtrained: do you have any other symptoms that would indicate that? The “runner’s knee” could be one!? Loss of motivation? Tiredness? Drop in performance? Loss of libido? Sleep disturbances? …


    Alex on #54196

    Hi Thomas, thanks for replying!

    The break has been around three weeks, maybe a month if you also count the last recovery week. Of the 17 hours, 16 have been running and 1 of core/strength work. The reason I’m training this much is because I wanted to build a big aerobic base so I could climb 4000 meter peaks in one day instead of two and feel like I belong there, not fight for every breath.

    From April 4 to May 4, my AeT went from 161(Pa:hr @ 4.02%, average speed 8kph) to 165 (Pa:hr @ 3.5%, average speed 8.77kph).

    I’ve started training in December, did a 2 month transition period where I started at 6 hours/week and by the end of the two months I had reached around 10. After that I’ve kept increasing the volume week after week and taking a recovery week every month. Once I reached about 12 hours/week the improvements in fitness really started to be noticeable.

    The pain first started when my Sunday long run got to around 5 hours, but by Tuesday I felt recovered and ready to train again. As I kept increasing the volume I noticed this pain get more frequent and creeping into my shorter runs as well. That’s when I decided to take a break from training.

    As for the other symptoms, not really. The more I trained the more motivated I felt, never started a run feeling sluggish, my performance kept improving and my libido was also unaffected. My sleep schedule has always been a bit chaotic so I’m not sure about that.

    Thomas Summer, MD on #54207

    You started training in December and built up to this volume!? What is your training history? I would really recommend a more gradual increase in volume. But it’s good that you feel motivated and not tired.

    Alex on #54213

    I’ve been very active up until I was 14-15, always out playing soccer, riding bikes, etc.. then moved to a different country and became way more sedentary. In my early 20s I started lifting, grappling, a brief affair with running, and only found out about hiking around 3 or 4 years ago (I’m 32). This is my first time on a structured training program for endurance btw.

    I’ve been increasing the volume around 10%/week. But when you get to 10h/week, 10% is one hour, that’s over 3 hours per month. My plan was to cap it around 20 hours but haven’t made it quite that far yet.

    Thomas Summer, MD on #54220

    Hi Alex!

    20 hours of running is a volume that only very few elite athletes reach and can handle. And they build up to that volume over many years. I’m pretty sure that Eliud Kipchoge is not running 20h per week;-) Maybe Kilian and some others do, but you don’t need 20h to be world-class.
    So I would highly recommend that you build your volume more gradually. Otherwise, this will lead to overtraining and other overuse injuries like your knee.
    Maybe a phone call with a coach would be a good option for you!? This way you can figure out the best training approach for you to climb the 4000m peaks.

    take it easy!

    Shashi on #54231


    You have a great goal and a good aerobic base built up. But as Thomas said, the volume ramp-up in the last six months is pretty significant.

    Few other things that concern me –

    Of the 17 hours, 16 have been running and 1 of core/strength work.

    I think your strength training volume is too low relative to aerobic volume.

    For a goal like yours and for someone new to structured training, usually, the 24-week mountaineering plan would be recommended. In a 24-week plan, let’s say in a 10-hour week you would be doing about three hours of strength training.

    If you need help in selecting a training plan, please feel free to reach out to the coaches –

    My sleep schedule has always been a bit chaotic so I’m not sure about that

    This will impact your everyday recovery.

    Have you tested your fitness on any intermediate goals? I don’t think you need 20 hours of training for what you want to achieve.

    Alex on #54285

    Hi Shashi, indeed some extra strength work probably could’ve avoided this injury. I used to do powerlifting and always had great knees so I figured I’m strong enough to get away with skipping a bit on the strength workouts but that obviously didn’t go as planned.

    Right now I’m doing leg workouts that focus on strengthening the tendons, flexibility and power (if anyone has leg problems, check out kneesovertoesguy) 3 times a week and upper body twice. Going forward I think I’ll do these workouts first thing in the morning followed a 10-12 hours/week of aerobic training. That’s the point where I’ve seen real solid improvements and I’m pretty sure by body can sustain that volume in the long run.

    Right now I only have a couple of months left before it’s time to just put the training to use and I’ll focus on getting back to the shape I was in before the injury and maybe improving a bit on that. Once my finances permit tho, I’ll definitely hire a coach.

    The closest I’ve come to testing my fitness was on my Sunday runs, I got up to 6:30 hours (without eating) and covered 2000m D+/- over 26km. The last hours and a half my knees really started to hurt and slowed me down which makes me think I could shave a significant amount of time off that.

    Thomas Summer, MD on #54366

    Hi Alex!

    I think it’s not so much about what you can do more, but what you can do less! That your knees are hurting is most likely just a sign that the load is too much and not that you are doing not enough strength training.
    Training is about a gradual increase. And the best approach is training just enough to stress your body for a good adaptation. It’s not about training as much as possible and trying not to get injured and burnt out. Maybe this question helps: if you are training 20h now and you want to get better over the next years, how much will train in 5 years?

    TerryLui on #54484

    Right now I only have a couple of months left before it’s time to just put the training to use and I’ll focus on getting back to the shape I was in before the injury and maybe improving a bit on that.

    I’m not sure what “getting back to the shape…before injury” means but are you still recovering from injury/overtraining?
    If so, then recovery should be priority vs. performance in “a couple of months”. Otherwise you’re only digging a deeper hole for yourself potentially causing further damage; sacrificing long term potential for short term gain.

    Training should be seen under the lens of “years” of development and not “weeks,” especially if structured training is new to the individual.

    used to do powerlifting and always had great knees so I figured I’m strong enough to get away with skipping a bit on the strength workouts

    You’re aware of this now but to shed a bit more light (for yourself or anyone else who may be curious), yes powerlifting requires much force and stability at the joints, but you’re only doing a very small quantity of repetitions in comparison to aerobic training. Think of how many reps one does in a session of lifting. Now think of how many steps/strides one takes when jogging/running.
    Not to mention the quality of force exerted on the joints with your body coming back to the ground with the assistance of momentum + gravity = magnified impact on joints versus slow + controlled contraction of the muscles in a weighted lift.

    Just some food for thought 🙂
    Good luck on the recovery!

    Alex on #54498

    A big thanks to everyone that took the time to answer! A lot of great advice and it’s the advice I would give someone in my position as well. It’s a bitter pill to swallow because I really enjoy training but there’s no negotiating with reality.

    My knees have improved a lot during the past month and tomorrow will be my first day back on the trails. My plan is to keep this first week’s volume around 6-8 hours (if I don’t experience any pain). Might take the week off and just keep doing the rehab exercises if there’s any pain.

    Quite concerned about how far my fitness has dropped, does anybody have any experience with how much damage a month of sedentary lifestyle does to the aerobic system and how long it takes to bring it back to where it was?

    Shashi on #54504

    Alex – good to hear that you are feeling better. Scott has provided some great advice here –

    A cautionary tale, and advice for starting over

    I can understand your concerns about the drop in fitness, but what you can now control is your recovery and slow transition to training. It might take months, but you will eventually get there once your body is ready.

    Thomas Summer, MD on #54511

    Hi Alex!

    I think you still don’t get the point that we are all trying to make in a sensitive way!?

    You should really be carefull with your build up! If I understand correctly and you are new to structured endurance training, then the amount of volume you did and plan to do is way TOO MUCH! Your approach seems to be: train as much as possible until there is pain and then do nothing for a week or longer. This on/off will lead you nowhere. If you would focus on a gradual build up in volume, you could have a more smooth progression. Your fitness will improve continuosly. Did you ever think about how you would progress, if you are allready doing 20h per week at the beginning of the training? Would you train 100h per week in 5 years?

    I would highly recommend taking a phone call with one of the coaches. I think that would be very helpfull to you. So that you enjoy the mountains for many more years.
    If you continue like this I see the big risc of burnout. And I really want you to have many beautifull experiences in the mountains.

    Sorry for putting my words so clear!

    be honest to yourself and
    take it easy!

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