How Can I Tell if I’m Running Too Much?

There can come a time when the kids are a bit older, and you can start chasing goals and running more and more—which is fantastic! And great to build fitness! BUT you CAN start running too much.

As I write this, it is the end of my marathon training cycle, and my Garmin is giving me negative feedback. Each run it tells me I am either overreaching or unproductive. Meanwhile, I’m running 7 days a week and a mileage much higher than I’ve run since returning from injury. My easy runs are slow and I feel fatigued. I started to wonder: am I running too much?

Your body will give you signs that you are running too much. It is important to listen to it.

Figuring out what your magic mileage is, what stress is functional and what is unproductive can be tricky. Training for a marathon is supposed to feel tiresome: right before the marathon taper, most runners should feel fatigued and ready for lighter mileage.

However, there is a fine line to walk between what is called functional overreaching and overtraining.

So how can you tell if you’re running too much?

I’m here to help you answer that question so that you stay healthy and on track towards your running goals.

Related: 9 Process Goals for Runners

In this article, I will answer:

  • What is functional overreaching, nonfunctional overreaching and overtraining?
  • How can you tell if you are running enough or running too much?
  • Risk factors for running too much
  • Questions to ask to tell if you’re running too much
  • 10 signs you’re running too much
  • & what to do if you are running too much

My experience with running too much


In 2019, my running coach and I decided to take a last-minute shot of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Trials marathon. My mileage almost doubled over the summer to the upper 90s and I was feeling very fatigued all the time.

It was hard to tell what was making me so tired. Was it the running? Life? Kids not sleeping well?

At the time, I worked full-time from home with my kids home full-time, too. My son didn’t sleep well and so my sleep was very scarce and broken up.

I kept telling myself that feeling tired all the time was normal for this level of training and my body would eventually adapt.

I ended getting injured (tearing my high hamstring), continuing to train, running the marathon, and running a big PR but missing my goal by a long shot. (I’ve written extensively about this experience and lessons I’ve learned!)

Related: Lessons Learned from My Running Injury

In retrospect, it is very likely I was very likely overreaching in an unproductive way, if not overtraining. I did not pay attention to several of the signs that accompany overtraining syndrome, but the chronic state of fatigue that settled in was a glaring one that I will not ignore again.

I swapped a complete rest day for an easy recovery run day in this training cycle but my body needed a break


When my Garmin watch started telling me that I was overreaching this marathon cycle, it did cause me to pause. I hadn’t taken a total day off (Sundays are an easy recovery run) in close to two months.

Related: Your Garmin Metrics Explained

I knew it was common (and can be productive) to be overreaching late in a marathon cycle and didn’t panic. While I felt sluggish on easy days, I was still nailing my workouts. As insurance, I opted to take a rest day.

Perhaps the rest day kept me from tipping the scales into overtraining? Perhaps it didn’t. But I knew that I had more to gain from not running than running. (Indeed, it helped moved my Garmin status into “peaking”.) And from my experience in 2019, I vowed to not step into that dangerous state of running too much again.

So, now that I’ve shared my experience, let’s get going with the facts on running too much!

What is functional overreaching vs. nonfunctional overreaching vs. overtraining?

Overreaching in running is when you run more volume or intensity than normal and do not have enough recovery in between work bouts. Your Garmin watch may believe you are overreaching when it notes the increase in volume and intensity without lower volume days or rest days. It may also notice a higher heart rate on slower paces.

Related: How to Taper for a Marathon

What is functional overreaching?

Pin these tips on how to tell if you’re running too much for later!

Functional overreaching is when a runner purposefully runs more without recovering for a period knowing they will be tapering or taking a reduction in training to allow the body to adapt. This can spur what is called supercompensation which results in a larger fitness boost from the stress.

This most commonly occurs at the end of a marathon training cycle heading into the marathon taper phase. Some runners will have functional overreaching in the middle of training blocks.

The timescale for the functional overreaching depends on the athlete. However, in my experience, one to three weeks of increased volume and/or intensity followed by a reduction in training can spur positive performance benefits.

Related: How to Use Supercompensation to Get FIT

You may feel what is called cumulative fatigue where your legs feel heavy and your feel tired during functional overreaching. However, you should still able to hit your workouts during functional overreaching. If performance on hard days suffers, then you are potentially doing what’s called nonfunctional overreaching.

Related: What is Cumulative Fatigue in Running?

What is nonfunctional overreaching?

Nonfunctional overreaching occurs when a runner increases volume and intensity and doesn’t follow this period with adequate recovery to allow the body to absorb the training and build back stronger. If nonfunctional overreaching occurs for an extended period, the runner may experience overtraining syndrome.

Related: 9 Reasons You Aren’t Getting Faster

What is overtraining syndrome?

Overtraining syndrome is a medical condition that is characterized by a prolonged and unexplained decrease in sports performance and deep chronic fatigue. It can be accompanied dby epression, mood swings, low libido, loss of motivation, and lack of appetite.

Studies define overtraining syndrome as a “maladapted response to excessive exercise without adequate rest, resulting in perturbations of multiple body systems (neurologic, endocrinologic, immunologic) coupled with mood changes.”

Related: 4 Ways to Improve Your Fatigue Resistance

(Heather Hart of Relentless Forward Commotion has a great article on functional overreaching vs. nonfunctional overreaching vs. overtraining syndrome.)

Note: Overtraining Syndrome is different than RED-S though the two can be related. RED-S or Relative Energy Deficiency Syndrome is ‘low energy availability’, where an individual’s dietary energy intake is insufficient to support the energy expenditure required for health, function, and daily living, once the cost of exercise and sporting activities is taken into account.

Related: RED-s: The Health Danger Facing Female Runners

What are the symptoms of running too much?

Pin these tips on how to tell if you’re running too much for later!

For most recreational runners, running too much can lead to feeling chronically tired, heavy legs, aches and pains, injuries, and getting sick often.

You will know if you are running too much if you have several days of “bad runs” strung together that can’t be explained by other factors such as illness, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, weather changes, life stress, or running at a different time of day.

Your body also gives you signs such as a higher resting heart rate and higher heart rate than usual for your level of effort.

Related: What is RPE in Running?

Am I overdoing it running?

You could be overdoing it running if you feel tired all the time.

Here are risk factors that can lead to running too much:

If you:

  • are newer to running
  • haven’t taken a rest day in a more than a week
  • have not had a down week (slight reduction in mileage of about 20-30 percent in a week) in more than a month
  • increased weekly mileage more than 10 percent week over week
  • have increased mileage continuously without hitting a ceiling

Related: How to Safely Increase Mileage

How much running a day is too much?

How much someone runs in a day is determined by several factors including someone’s running experience and goals:

  • For most experienced recreational runners, running anywhere from 5 to 10 miles a day, or for up to 90 minutes, is normal and healthy.
  • Elite runners may run as many as 18 miles a day.
  • Beginner runners may average one mile per day (typically in the form of 2-3 running days a week).

Accumulating mileage over time is important as well as total mileage being reasonable with your goals.

  • For example, if you are aiming to break two hours in the half marathon and running 75 miles a week—these numbers are mismatched. Thirty to forty miles per week would be more appropriate.
  • On the flip side, if you are trying to run a 2:45 marathon and only running 40 miles a week, these numbers don’t fit together for most but not all runners. Sixty-five to eighty miles per week would be more appropriate.

There are obviously exceptions to every rule. Yesterday, I watched a mother runner win the Knoxville Marathon in a blazing 2:43 on an incredibly hilly course. Her Strava shows she runs only about 45 miles per week. She beat two women running close to double that.

What questions should I ask to determine if I’m running too much?

You can tell if you’re running enough or running too much by paying attention to how you feel mentally and physically, and how you are running.

Ask yourself:

  • Is my performance for both easy and hard workouts suffering?

    If you’re struggling on runs that normally aren’t hard for you, then you could be overtraining.
  • Do I feel tired and sluggish all the time?
  • Do I feel sore and not recovered by the next run?
  • Am I ignoring my best judgment that I need a break? (Often times that voice in our head is the voice of reason!)
  • Do I have a lot of aches and pains (aka niggles)?
  • Am I dreading my next run?
  • Do I feel rundown or sick a lot?
  • Am I sleeping poorly?
  • Do I have energy to do all the things I need to do in a day?

If you answer yes to many of these questions, you may need to lighten your load.

10 Warning Signs You are Running Too Much

Specifically, here are signs you could be in danger of overtraining in running or running too much.

  1. Performance decline, despite training hard, and feeling sluggish in workouts.
  2. Chronic fatigue despite adequate sleep.
  3. Loss of appetite.
  4. Elevated resting heart rate by 3-5 beats. (Your GPS watch or WHOOP may tell you this). 
  5. Difficulty sleeping.
  6. Depression, mood swings, irritability, and/or loss of motivation to run, or do anything.
  7. Chronically sore muscles and not feeling recovered between runs.
  8. Nagging injuries or aches that don’t go away.
  9. Getting sick frequently.
  10. Difficulty focusing.

Related: Faster as a Master’s: Masters Running Tips

How do you prevent overtraining in running?

Your body has overt signs you may be running too much.

You can prevent overtraining by paying attention to all the little things to help you stay healthy including eating well, sleeping enough, not increasing mileage too much, running easy on your easy days, and listening to your body.

Related: How I Stopped Being an Injury-Prone Runner

What should you do if you think you’re running too much?

If you think you may be overtraining or in danger of overtraining, it is imperative you take time off of running. Depending on the severity of your overtraining, you may need to take weeks or months off from intense training. If you were nonfunctional overreaching, extra rest days or a week or so of reduced volume will remedy your issues.

Getting lab work done to look under the hood to get your levels is never a bad idea. Avoid self-diagnosis. 

Related: Benefits of a Running Break for Runners

During this time, focus on eating and sleeping well, hydrating, and mental wellness. Some light exercise is okay in many cases. Learn more about recovering from overtraining here.

Having a running coach can help you prevent overtraining. If you want guidance with your run training, including strength training, check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:





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