I recently was going through my website and found that one of the most searched topics on my site is “legs feel like lead during training.” I did a post on this a few years ago and since it seems to be so popular, I thought we should touch upon this again.
Running is one of my favorite things to do. That doesn’t mean that it is always easy. Sure, some days are easier or better than others. There are also days when every step is a struggle, and every minute is a process of me pleading with myself to keep going.
Regardless of how many or how few miles you have logged before training for a race, one thing is almost certain, race training will exhaust your body. Your legs will in fact feel like they are full of lead. Your muscles will likely ache and you will probably fall in and out of love with the sport during your training cycle.
Training for endurance races is an involved process. Plans will have you doing various types of runs that might involve both short and long mileage, speed work, tempo runs, and perhaps even sprints. Each of these serves an important purpose in making you a stronger and healthier racer.
You will also notice that most plans follow a periodized pattern. This involves a gradual increase in mileage over time. The increased distance is meant to slowly train your legs to endure the large amounts of mileage you will face on race day. In order to do this in a healthy manner and to hopefully avoid injury, you will spend many weeks of higher mileage training.
This type of training and mileage will in fact, exhaust your legs. In order to make your muscles stronger, you have to push them. Just as your muscles get sore and tired when you lift weights, your legs must go through this same process. In order to build muscle in the gym, you gradually lift heavier weights and for longer periods. The result of this is tired and achy muscles, just like you feel after endurance training.
There are two things that you need to do during this period. First, you must approach your rest and recovery in a manner that allows you time to heal and recover. Respect your rest days. Don’t run. Stretch and do some light activities. Drink lots of water and eat plenty of bright red and green fruits and veggies as well as plenty of protein. Remember that a healthy diet fuels your training.
Once you have ensured that you are resting and recovering properly, you then need to push through those heavy legs. There will be days and even weeks where you legs and body feel absolutely exhausted. You will have to continue training through these tired legs. Your pace may slow down a bit. Don’t push it too hard and be patient with your body.
Finally, know that this won’t last forever. Trust that this process is meant to build your body and make you stronger for your event. It will be difficult and frustrating at times. With patience and diligence, you will soon find that you feel like yourself again. In fact, you might even find that you are stronger than you were just a few weeks ago.
What is your best advice for dealing with tired and heavy legs?