Written by Dan and Kelly McCann
Let's talk about rest and recovery. We had an athlete ask us the very logical question, "Is it possible to run too much?"
The simple answer would be "yes." It's possible to run too much just as it's possible to lift too many weights, drink too much water or eat too many whole grains – all things that are really good for us in general.
Now, it's always a little dicey answering these types of questions because all of our bodies are capable of different things – you may cruise with your present level of exertion. So, we'll approach it from the standpoint of "what's recommended," keeping in mind that even Olympic athletes give themselves some downtime.
What's recommended – and what we embrace – is two complete training cycles a year (talking key races here - marathons especially): You build up for 20-24 weeks, race, take a couple months of reasonable mileage, then build up for another of these 20-24-week "mesocycles" and race. Within those mesocycles, we follow a similar pattern: we build up, we fall back, we build up, we fall back. (That's why you see recovery weeks in your schedule.)
The simple reason being – our bodies need rest and recovery to perform at optimal levels versus being in a heightened state of performance at all times. The risk is that, at some point, the machine could start to break down under the perpetual exertion and become injured. Or, we could hit an over-training situation where we start to experience decreased performance/stagnant results, excessive fatigue, a lack of motivation, agitation, moodiness, insomnia, even depression...
Legendary running coach Jack Daniels said of overtraining: "In my dictionary, the word 'overtrain' falls just a page away from the word 'overkill,' defined as 'to obliterate with more nuclear force than required.' Consider the connection: If your target is top running performance, then to overtrain means to apply more force than is required to hit that target. In fact, overtraining may literally obliterate your target, or at least leave you without the will to pursue it."
If your goal is to improve time, less may actually be more.