Bordering overtraining, can I run instead? Or too similar?

I’ve started down the path of overtraining after a demanding season (body just not responding well to anything over tempo and recovery taking longer - Garmin also telling me “Unproductive status” over the past couple weeks) - Can I still run or do I need a hard reset? I’m pretty sure I’m overtrained physically (or close) but still have a lot of energy and sleep/ eating have been fine - BUT I want to actually recover from overtraining and not extend by potentially doing something that is too similar?

Can you elaborate on “not responding well”?

Yeah, so there’s a lot: I sort of used myself as a guinea pig this race season. I wasn’t thinking I’d have a race season this year (family planning stuff), things changed and then what do you know, it’s end of February and I’m going to have a season after all. I just went into build without base, and figured I’d just make the best of it. SOME background - I am a cat 1 roadie but had seven years off of competition. Some riding to maintain in the meantime but no focused training outside of a triathlon season last year.
I know what GOOD form feels like, I know what tired legs but effective training despite some fatigue feels like. I definitely hit some new boundaries this season and learned a lot about those limits. I knew I was plateauing after several months of awesome performance. But near the end of five months of racing (primarily 80-90 mile gravel races, I also did two road stage races), I went past plateau and I saw that if I tried VO2 or Threshold, the numbers were dramatically lower (barely able to stay within range for the energy system) - sickness in the form of Covid and then a cold was definitely a contributor too. HR was the other indicator of not responsive (or, responsive in a negative way), as that is what Garmin based the “Unproductive” status on- my VO2 Max was continuing to drop.

I’m three weeks post- racing. My HR is back to normal resting. But my legs are still feeling more tired than they SHOULD for efforts I’m familiar with (group ride I normally keep up with just fine was a struggle).

I may need a long reset for my legs, and I get it - I am aware I pushed boundaries this season - my question is just whether I need to keep off my legs entirely or if something like running is different enough so that it won’t negatively impact my overall recovery?

Assuming that this is related to overtraining / over-reaching, what you body needs is an overall reduction in training load.

Changing to running alone with not satisfy the need for reduced training load, and may in fact be detrimental as your body is not adapted to running. This may induce additional stress on an already over-taxed system.

You may not need a “hard-reset”, but you do need a short-break followed by a reduction in over-all training volume and a mindfulness about intensity. During this time it is important to ensure that you are taking in adequate nutrition.


Thank you Rob, I appreciate the insight.
Copy. I’ll take a short full-on break and monitor a gradual return.

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This x100. There’s really no such thing as a “recovery run”, particularly if you’re not adapted to running following a long break or just starting the sport.


Don’t just reduce the training load, reduce the intensity. If you monitor HRV, when you’re baseline TREND is back up for a couple weeks, add some shorter threshold intensity back and see how you respond.

Of note: you say you are sleeping well, but are you rested when you wake up? Waking up before your alarm? To me that’s a good indicator of my recovery

HRV trends can be quite individual. Normally when I take a rest from training, my HRV starts down and goes down more. Once I get back to training, it’ll come back up, trend upward until I start to fatigue where it’ll start ticking back down again. Also depends on how you measure… are you doing overnight measurement or one-time in the morning? I get more consistent data overnight, but the trending changed for me when I shifted to measuring via Oura vs. Polar strap in the morning.

I would just shy away from giving general advice based on HRV. If you know how a certain athlete responds based on empirical data, then it becomes quite a bit more valuable to track and advise based on that.

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Oura isn’t an accurate measurement of HRV though? I believe polar straps are validated against EKG?

You describe how your HRV responds when not tired, but what happens when you’re tired and stop training? Does it go down further when you rest from training?

I also give advice based on sleep and performance and HRV was a general guide. What would you suggest otherwise?

De. Marco Altini, the scientist behind HRV4TRAINING validated Oura as the only accurate wearable for HRV measurement other than the Polar H9/H10. (He is also a data science advisor for Oura). I have both, and have used both for my measurements. The tracking and trending are the same, the Polar has more variation day to day as a one time measurement. The Oura readings are average overnight readings. Both are valid.

My measurements trend up to start a block; when I fatigue, they go down like most others. When I rest, they decline further and usually more rapidly. Usually my lowest in-season readings for HRV come at the end of recovery blocks. When I train again, they come right back up. Over the course of time, like most others, as my fitness improves, HRV trends up and RHR trends down. Acutely, I see crazy stuff in recovery blocks. That is consistent patterning from more than a year’s worth of data.

I also asked Dr. Altini about it and he agreed that like most things, athletes are individuals while there are norms, it’s important to ensure you know what the individual athlete’s trends look like rather than following general guidance.

It’s no different than having one athlete who responds to a certain type of interval better than another.

So don’t mistake what I said: I didn’t say don’t guide your athletes using HRV. I said don’t give general guidance based on HRV without qualifiers. Watch each individual athlete’s trends and baselines, and make recommendations based on THAT (and of course sleep, resting HR, subjectives, and whatever else you track). There are people out there who have different baselines and see different behaviors with respect to HRV and their training.

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