I know this is going to be controversial. There’s zillions of blog posts telling you running on tired legs leads to loss of form and injury. It can even lead to chronic fatigue.
But there’s a balance. If you’ve ruled out red flags such as excessive fatigue, poor sleep, a high resting heart rate or persistent aches and pains, sometimes it’s okay to run through it.
Here are my reasons why it’s okay to keep running on tired legs.
You Want To Build Endurance
If you’re training for a marathon or any kind of endurance running, at some stage you will need to run on tired legs.
Your body needs to get used to running longer distances. The only way this will happen is when you run beyond your comfort zone.
It’s still important to be sensible about building your endurance if you want to avoid injury (and we do don’t we). Add no more than 1-2 miles extra to your longest run each week.
You’re Building Your Weekly Mileage
As you work towards your endurance goal, you’ll not only be building the length of your long run, but also your total weekly mileage.
It can be tough going. Even sticking to the “no more than 10% extra” rule each week, can feel like hard work.
This is where you need to make the call. Can I get through my scheduled training, running on tired legs or do I need to add in rest days?
The best training schedules work on a three week rota. One medium effort week, followed by one hard week, then an easy week where the mileage and effort is less and your body gets a chance to recover.
If you can hang in there, running on tired legs until you hit your easy week, your endurance will benefit. Just watch out for red flags: your tired legs are getting worse or you have persistent aches and pains.
There is a point where you have to say “enough” and take a rest day or two. Getting injured is the guaranteed way of destroying your training plans, so be sensible.
You Want To Get Fitter
Getting fitter means working harder. Working harder means tired legs. There’s no getting away from it.
This time it’s not the length of the runs that’s causing you grief, it’s the pace. Those muscles are being worked – hard, and you’ll recover and come back stronger.
There are training regimes that purposefully make you run hard sessions back to back. You’ll be running on tired legs and that’s okay if you’re an experienced runner.
If you’re a beginner, you need to be realistic. You should approach hard sessions such as tempo runs and intervals with caution.
So many beginner runners get injured in their first year of running. It’s easy to get carried away and overload legs which are still in the early stages of developing strong runner’s muscles.
Just go easy on those hard sessions. Make sure you recover fully in between sessions and you don’t take on more than your body can cope with.
Reading Tips For Running On Tired Legs
I suggest following a training schedule that’s appropriate for your level of experience. Better still get a coach. It’s always hard to know where that fine balance lies between training hard and getting injured. Love to know your thoughts!
Frequently Asked Questions – Running On Tired Legs
When you’re running your legs are doing most of the work so it’s not surprising it’s the first part of your body to feel tired. How you respond to tired legs should depend on your training schedule and what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re building up for a marathon it can make sense to run some sessions on tired legs to build your endurance – just as long as you’re not risking injury. If you’re trying to build speed, running on tired legs is unlikely to be effective. It’s better to have an easy run and save your speed session for when your legs have recovered.
When you run your legs do most of the work and it’s normal for them to get tired if you’re running hard or running long distances. It helps if you build up muscle strength by running intervals, hill training and even gym or yoga sessions. Taking an ice bath or a really cold bath shortly after a hard session can help your legs recover faster. Ice baths improve blood circulation, reduce inflamation and reduce DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). You don’t have to stay in for long, 6-8 minutes is the suggested time… 10 minutes maximum.
There can be many factors contributing to tired legs when you run. Over-training is the most common cause – cut back on your running, take rest days and see if your running improves. Other factors can be lack of leg strength or over-doing strength training, skipping post run stretches, wearing running shoes with inadequate support, weight gain, insufficient carbs, iron deficiency (effects male as well as female runners), poor sleep, poor circulation or dehydration. Experiment with changes to your training and lifestyle to see if it makes an impact.