HERE’S SOMETHING TO THINK about this summer: autumn is the busiest time of year in my office. Like clockwork, the phone starts ringing off the hook: “Dr Metzl, I’ve got a twinge, and my marathon is in a month. Please help!” Day after day, the same calls come in.
Why? As my friend Ramon, a running coach, says, “Marathon runners typically get hurt because they violate the rule of too’s: too much, too quickly, too intensely.” In other words, these injuries are the result of overtraining. With thousands of runners training for big late summer events like Two Oceans and Comrades, peak running mileage hits between spring and mid-summer. After months of pushing ahead, the body, if not trained properly, starts to break down. There’s a fine line in endurance sports between achieving maximum fitness and going overboard.
As a sports medicine doctor, an endurance athlete, and a fitness professional – I get it! We all want a good result, and we ride the edge to get that result. But when we go overboard, we can end up with overtraining syndrome, a surprisingly common condition characterised by diminished performance. It shows up in three key areas – mental, hormonal, and physical – and the tricky part is, you might not even realise you have it. Let me break it down.
One of the most common symptoms of overtraining syndrome is burnout. A runner who puts so mu