Updated: Dec 9, 2019
The Point of Diminishing Returns
We all know that running or any other physical activity can be good for the body, mind and soul, but when is it too much? At what point do we start to see a regression in benefits, and when does the physical activity start to work against us?
It’s long been recognized that running can quickly become an obsession, or even an addiction. When this happens, it can be dangerous for the athlete, because you don’t want to give up what you think is making you feel good. Many "average Joes" have been through this phase, including myself. You tend to ignore your minor aches and pains, only to get a more serious injury. Or you tend to come back too fast after an illness or injury, because you don’t want to lose your fitness level. It’s at this point where you need to have patience and logic, neither of which are easy to come by when you’re obsessed or addicted to the activity. We tend to try to "run through the pain," and trust me, it rarely works. If it’s a minor injury or illness, you normally won’t reduce your fitness level by missing 15 to 20 days of running. I’ve had several illnesses or injuries that lasted a week or two, and it was actually fairly easy to get back to the original level of fitness. A number of times, the lengthy rest actually put me back on track faster, because my body was fresh once again. This doesn’t work in all cases, however. If the illness or injury is severe enough, you may need to take additional time, sometimes for several months. To avoid starting all over, engage in cross-training such as non-impact activities like running in a pool, walking or cycling. During this recovery period, work on your free weights and upper body workouts, combined with full-body stretching.
Finally, don’t become obsessed with mileage only, as this will most certainly result in an overuse injury. Mix up your running with fartleks, strides, intervals, hill running, long runs, and make each type of run, in each workout, a definitive, achievable plan. Junk miles are easily accumulated, but rarely meaningful. See Chapter 13 – Training Basics for more information.
To reap the benefits for your mind and body, keep your running in perspective and enjoy it as part of a full, active lifestyle.