Legs Feel Like Lead When Running- It’s Normal and Not

After blogging for over five years, the most viewed post on my website is about Legs Feeling Like Lead When Running.  Check out the link if you want to read some of my older content.  Then continue on for some updated information.

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I still remember the inspiration for that initial post.  It was our first winter in Chicago and I was determined to not let the weather get the best of my running.  I spent a few days trapped inside during our first Polar Vortex.  After one snow storm, I headed out for a nice long run.  I had to run through snow hills and many sidewalks that hadn’t been shoveled (shame on you non-shovelers!).  It was miserable.  After a few days of this my legs just felt so heavy.  The extra effort it took to get over hills or through slushy paths, reminded me of marathon training.

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At the same time, I had several runners training for various spring half and full marathons and they were asking me if it was normal for their legs to feel tired.

The answer is Yes.  And No.

The marathon, by nature, is meant to build you up and break you down.  You take your body to places you haven’t been before.  You run more miles than you normally would.  You often do training runs that push paces beyond what you are used to.  All of this will cause your legs to be tired.

Your legs will feel tired and heavy. That is normal at times.  But there are also ways to help combat that constant heavy feeling:

Run your slow runs slowly.  If your training plan calls for slow training runs, do these as planned.  They allow you to run faster and longer on your other training days.

By running faster on your planned slow days, you are not making yourself faster or stronger.  You are delaying recovery and defeating the purpose of your run.  Slow runs train you to become more aerobically efficient and allow your body to recover.  If you ignore these paces, you risk injury.

If you run too fast on your slow days, you also make it harder to run fast on the days when your training requires these paces.  By running slow on required slow pace days, you will be able to run faster on the days where workouts push the pace.

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Treat your body well.  Recovery is essential to training.  Fuel with carbohydrates 30 minutes after a training run.  If your body is aching, pull out the foam roller.  Take a soak with epsom salts.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

What do you do to combat those heavy legs?

6 thoughts on “Legs Feel Like Lead When Running- It’s Normal and Not

  1. Well-timed post! I’m recovering from Phoenix and finally my legs no longer feel like cement blocks. I spent the past week wondering how I ran over 2 min faster per miles because I just could not lift my feet. I love getting massages and using my compression boots (AirRelax) to aid in recovery.

  2. Good tips. My legs usually feel like lead the first mile or so, but then feel a little better afterward. So I always start out slower than my intended pace. Eating well and a little strength training both help.

  3. This is probably obvious but I always feel so much better and stronger when I get enough sleep! For over a year I didn’t get enough and a lot of runs were tough. Now I’m trying to be in bed for 7 hours a night and feel so much better and my muscles just work better.

    • Excellent advice. As a mom of young kids, I can truly attest to the power of sleep and running. Recovery occurs when you rest and there is no better time then when you are sleeping. You are a smart runner!

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