Legs Feel Like Lead? That’s Normal.

The other day I was feeling pretty good.  As my injury has been slowly healing I have been increasing my mileage.  Last week I got 46 miles in and this week is gearing up to be 50 or so.  They certainly aren’t as fast as they used to be and I’m not 100% but in runner’s speak this means I am back!  It feels good and it makes me feel so happy.  In fact I was feeling so great that I decided to do a leg workout on Sunday night.

It has been over two months since I was able to do a leg workout.  I decided to be “conservative” and just do a 15 minute workout with the kettlebell.  Oh man, it felt so good to feel the sweat and the burn!  I had missed that feeling.  It felt so fantastic that I was tempted to do some more but my legs were feeling pretty rubbery so I set it down and walked away.


Good thing I did because when I went to get out of bed Monday morning my legs were so tight that I almost collapsed.  I shuffled/wobbled everywhere.  I looked a bit like a penguin as I headed to get my morning coffee.  I had forgotten what that felt like.

As I started my morning run with my husband my legs felt like lead.  I had to push myself through every step for the first mile.  He has been marathon training for about a month now and it was rather frustrating to try and stay with him.  He was fast, and I was moving slow.  I finally told him to go ahead and take off and I just pushed along at my new, slow pace.

It was a tough run; I’m not going to lie.  I almost had to will my legs along with each step.  It reminded me of something……marathon training.  You know that feeling, every Monday despite taking all of Sunday off, when you set out for a run and you realize in the first few steps that you are still exhausted.  Your whole body is beat from Saturday’s long run, and all of the miles you logged before that.  It makes you want to stop and call it quits.  But you keep pushing on.  Fortunately a mile or so in your body gets warmed up and you feel somewhat back to your old self.

This was a good reminder for me.  As I continue to work with many athletes preparing for various marathons, I sometimes forget just how rough it can feel to push your body through the rigors of training.  It isn’t easy, but neither are marathons.

The truth is, you need to feel like that.  You are supposed to feel exhausted.  Your body will ache in places it never did and you will want to take a nap at just about any given moment.  Getting up from the sofa or even trying to sit down at the dining room table will have you bracing yourself and taking painfully slow movements.  We won’t even discuss what a production it can sometimes be to use the restroom!

Just about every run will start off with an ache, a dull pain, or heavy feeling legs.  That means your training is working.  Your plan is made to slowly break down your body, exhaust you, and then build you back up.  Twenty six point two miles is a long distance.  It isn’t easy, whether you are a first timer or an elite.  To get through the race as fast and strong as possible you need to train your body in a way you likely never have.  It goes beyond just your muscles and deep into the inner workings of your body.  You have to train your lungs and heart to handle this distance and your body also learns how to efficiently use the fuel you give it.

If we are going to be really honest, most of us that take on the challenge of a marathon are not coming into training in perfect condition.  Odds are we are just your average athletes.  That means that in order to get in proper marathon shape, we are going to have to really push our bodies and shape them into marathon running machines.

Tired, but happy!

Tired, but happy!

If that is the case, you are going to experience achy knees and shin splints.  Your back is going to sing when you finish a 15 mile run.  Your legs and entire body are going to be stiff by the end of a training week.  You are probably going to end up with some sort of tendonitis whether it is in your knee, a toe, or an ankle.

The key is to figure out quickly what is going on and properly treat it before it turns into something bigger.  Do you need to heat it, ice it or prop it up while you are working at your desk?  Maybe your body needs a massage every other week.  Learn to spend some time each night with a foam roller or The Stick.

Part of your training will be to assess your body.  Figure out what is going on and be honest with yourself.  Is this something that could be debilitating?  Or is this just a nagging ache?  Would taking a week off get rid of this potentially harmful injury?  Or is this something that you can run through and treat as you continue your training?  If you need to see a doctor, go for it.  But keep in mind that not every nagging pain is going to need an examination and you have to determine what really warrants a visit to the doctor or a physical therapist.

This is a careful balance and one of the hardest parts of marathon training is to manage to get through it without injuries.  However, it is also important to train your body through aches and pains because you body and mind will need to practice running on tired and heavy legs for your race.  Just make sure you always have your foam roller and a bag of ice handy at all times.

Happy running and exhaustion!

27 thoughts on “Legs Feel Like Lead? That’s Normal.

  1. I’ve forgotten that feeling… The tired Monday morning feeling during marathon training. It’s been a few months since I’ve ran more than 8 miles. I have to say I am really looking forward to feeling like that again! Never would have thought I would miss that exhaustion. 😛
    Congrats on a good leg workout!

  2. Finding that happy balance between working hard enough and working too much is difficult, and I think it comes with practice. Mistakes will be made and injuries will be happen, but it’s always a good lesson to listen to your body!

  3. I loved reading this for many reasons… I’m glad you are back and are able to start training again, it is good to hear that I am not alone (after taking time off for whatever reason it is), and it was a good read! What time and race is your husband hoping for?

    • Thanks. It feels good to be back. I really want to run one soon but am not sure I should commit just yet. He did his first at 3:40 and was very apprehensive and the race was very small and lonely. This time around his is much more prepared mentally and physically so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 3:30ish. Not bad for a guy who picked it up a few years ago.

  4. I cannot wait to exhaust myself like that again. I feel confident that it’s coming.
    You always have the most amazing, well-written posts. ❤ I'm so glad that you are getting back into training mode!

  5. Nice! Way to go! I keep pushing through workouts when I’m tired cause I know it will only help. That’s why I like Hal Higdon plans – he incorporates the back to back medium/long runs. Running on tired legs teaches them to use lactose as fuel!

  6. That’s how my legs have been feeling lately and I’m only averaging around 30 miles a week! and to think. I’m thinking about running a half marathon in October!

  7. I always worry about getting lifting in while I am marathon training because I am afraid it will affect my runs, and those feel so much more important to me. Thanks for inspiring me to know that that is okay and will actually make me better!!
    Thanks for the kick in the pants!

  8. I think the penguin walk is cute…. on a penguin, lol. Thus why I too avoid legs. Or try to get them in on the same day that I do a shorter run. But yeah–I think marathon training is more about learning to tell yourself that YOU ARE NOT EXHAUSTED than anything else

  9. this is a good reminder of the necessary pain we put ourselves through, all in the name of running! i remember when i was training for a marathon last summer and still working out with my trainer at least twice a week…i thought my legs were just going to exist in a permanent state of super tight exhaustion misery for the rest of my life. and i’m partially right, but i keep running and loving it. 🙂

  10. I did a marathon today and my lehs felt like lead from k13 until k42. Not cool!!!! Never had this in training. Any ideas?

    • Marathons are definitely rough like that. It could be one of any factor from fuel, hydration, or even the weather or course. No two marathons are alike even if it is the same course. Hope you are feeling better soon and congrats on the finish!

  11. Pingback: Legs Feel Like Lead When Running- It’s Normal and Not | Running On Healthy

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