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I am very interested in fitness and I have done a lot of training in the past (both cardio and strength). However, I become overtrained very, very easily. When I get overtrained I become extremely fatigued, I have trouble sleeping, I get headaches, I get run down and sometimes I get sick. Therefore, I have to limit my training and this limits my progress and what I am ultimately capable of achieving.

For example, on a background of steady cardio (such as cycling) I started running 3 years ago. I can run 45-50 miles in a month without much problem and I can run 60 miles if I am really careful (in terms of rest and not pushing too hard in my training). Earlier this year I ran 75 miles in a month and it made me overtrained and it took me months to recover from that.

The last few months I have been running 50 to 60 miles each month and this month I finally felt ready to try to step it up again. At almost the middle of the month I have run 36 miles so far. This week I ran or walked 5 days in a row, managing each session so as not to overdo it. However, during yesterday's run I realized I was feeling drained, so I backed off and walked part of the way and cut the distance short. However, by bedtime it was evident that I had become overtrained. Sleeping was very difficult and today I have no energy to do anything. I feel drained and extremely fatigued.

I have been this way my entire life (since I was a teenager). I have been checked by many general doctors and nothing obvious shows up. I don't have any recognizable diseases or even anything obviously wrong according to basic medical examinations. Furthermore, because of my desire to be fit I eat better and follow a healthier lifestyle than any of my friends. The problem most certainly is not a poor diet or lifestyle.

Most people I know who have worse diets and lifestyle are able to training much harder than I can.

It seems to me that I would never be able to run a marathon (or even a half marathon) given the limitations in the amount of training my body can handle. I just could not follow any of the half marathon training programs I have seen without quickly becoming overtrained. The same limitations have been present for any type of physical training I have attempted. I had to give up a sport I loved because even through I had athletic talent for it, I did not have the stamina and I could not find any solution for getting the stamina. (Again, the typical training routines were far too much for me to handle.)

Should I just accept that my body cannot handle much exercise? Or should I go for some really advanced medical tests? If so, any ideas about what should be tested? (I had a treadmill stress test a couple years ago and passed that with flying colors. The doctor remarked on my excellent physical fitness!)

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Are you only focusing on running? Have you tried other endurance or strength activities? To what does 60 miles a month translate, I mean it can be 2 miles each day or 60 miles once a month (the later obviously not the case, but you get what I mean). –  Baarn Sep 14 '13 at 21:37
As I mentioned in the post I have done a lot of training including serious cycling and weight lifting. Currently I am focused on running. As part of that I do a moderate strength training program for runners that was recommended by my PT. My running program consists mostly of runs between 2.5 and 4 miles. 4 miles is an easy distance for me at my typical pace. I did one slow 6 mile run this month (and also one 6 mile run last month.) Does that provide the info you need? –  Frank Sep 14 '13 at 21:43
I had a similar problem last winter to get beyond ~5-6km running distance, although I am an avid cyclist. I discontinued running due to several reasons (beer and shoes mostly) and just restarted some weeks ago. So I don't know an answer but share an interest in obtaining one. –  Baarn Sep 14 '13 at 21:49
However I guess everyone faces this problem, but with running you seem to be much more likely to meet the blerch earlier than with other endurance sports. –  Baarn Sep 14 '13 at 21:51
Look for completely different sports. I am sure thre must be some big biomechanical differences between individuals. I've never been able to run more than 5 minutes without wanting to puke, but I used to go very long distances in my bicycle. My former wife couldn't also run more than a few minutes, but would enjoy swimming a lot and really developed endurance and good style. It is really worth the effort that you try swimming or buy a bicycle instead. Or try weightlifting with a program with moderate volume (NOT the usual ones in the magazines, no wonder that you overtrain with these). –  Mephisto Sep 14 '13 at 21:52

1 Answer 1

I have a theory...

My theory is that you are exercising every day. If so, the problem that you are running into is that you are giving your body insufficient time to recover. This is sometimes expressed as:

Training stress + recovery time = Improvement

If you do not give your body time to recover, you will not improve; you will just continue to accumulate training stress. Depending on how you do it, you will either plateau, or you will get overtrained.

If you work out fewer days during the week, you will be able to work out harder, and that is how you will improve.

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No, I do not exercise every day. In fact, I give myself more recovery time than most other people seem to require. That is why I asked my question. For example, some years ago I found that I make best gains in strength when I workout a muscle group only once every 7 to 10 days. Of course working out so infrequently limits my gains, but working out more frequently limits them even more! –  Frank Sep 16 '13 at 14:55

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