Does runners' high have a downside?

Recently on my rest days I have been feeling absolutely dreadful... Really down and miserable, so much so it's affecting my concentration when I am working. On the days in which I run I usually feel pretty good. I'm doing 3 runs per week and about to successfully complete Dry January so I have had a very healthy month physically. I have even lost about 2.5kg over the month.


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14 Replies

  • Possible sign of over-training and under-fueling.

  • ViaM could well be right. Might be an idea to look carefully at your diet to make sure you're getting enough fuel, vitamins, protein etc. Other than that, maybe you need a down week, with reduced mileage. It's well established that rest is an important part of a good fitness regime. Hope you get to the bottom of this soon as it must be very dispiriting :)

  • Hope life improves for you. January is reputed to be a bit of a downer after the excitement of christmas and the holidays. If you're losing weight a vitamin supplement is a good idea as many people each strange stuff to keep the calories down. I know I do.

  • It could be... However my wife has recently started Slimming World so we've had plenty of salads, fruit and good homemade food. I have been craving calories though.

    Feel dreadful today, almost like I have a bad hangover.

    Might go to the doctor this week.

  • Oh dear...:(

    I am certainly no expert, but this time of the year can be dire.

    The silly season is over, the weather generally, dry January to boot, all adding up to quite a testing time.

    Hints are, that, as you say, when you run, you feel good, and we know that when we run, we don't generally, think stressful things.

    Combination then as the others say of everything but maybe take a look at what could be worrying you?

    Not easy I know....really hard in fact.. but as Shelley said,

    " ...If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

    Not much help,but feeling for you..:)

  • I have experienced a similar problem, have been absolutely worn out on rest days and can feel quite unwell with it. I have cut down alcohol and have been eating even more healthily and I've felt worse since, maybe it's an initial detox with doing dry January?

  • Sorry to hear youre feeling unwell Simon :-(

    I felt like this a while back. I had a weeks rest and got some early nights in , ate healthily ( as you are ) and made sure I upped my water intake as I am a bugg*r for not drinking enough water ! I also take a vitamin supplement , exactly the same as Berrocca but a bit cheaper . Well I am from Yorkshire . Ha ha :-)

    Good idea to check it out with your Doc though.

    Good Luck and I hope you feel better soon xxx

  • it is unlikely to be a detox issue, because there is no such thing as a detox issue. It's unlikely to be overtraining on 3 runs a week, unless they are ultra-distances. Nutrition and sleep, as others have mentioned are the most likely culprits.

    Keep a food diary - use MyFitness Pal or a similar free app to log your food intake - I guarantee you, however on pint your nutrition is, it will surprise you once you have done a couple of weeks worth and look at the results. I found my average daily calorie intake was about 1000cal less than I imagined, and my macros were frequently soemwhat adrift of what I thought, plus I ralised how little I ate in the mornings. You will also keep better track of water intake.

    The other side of it is it is okay to feel depleted when you rest if you are training hard. I am following a fairly intense programme at the moment mon-fri, with an active rest day Sat and total rest Sun, and tbh Saturdays I feel exhausted to the point of feeling physically ill, barely able to move, despite getting 10 hrs sleep and Sundays only vaguely better. It is a if my body has just pulled out all the plugs. I could no more run or lift a heavy object than I could fly. But then Monday morning I almost invariably hit PBs. Work hard, rest hard.

  • It's definitely not distance... one 10k, one 5k and one other run less than 5k is what I am currently doing each week. I do push myself one my runs though - it's rare that a week goes by without a PB or two.

    Sleep has been an issue for some time. My little girl (20 months old) is up at least twice each night (often three times) so despite going to bed around 10 I'm not getting much unbroken sleep. We're hoping she'll grow out of it soon and sleep through the night (it might happen!!!).

    Nutrition is probably another... isn't 2500 calories per day the recommended amount for men? I doubt I'm getting that most days. I try and have a few pieces of fruit each day and salads/veg are the norm with my evening meal now so I hope I'm getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals. Breakfast is nearly always porridge with blueberries and lunch is usually a sandwich or two. Could be protein or not enough fat that's the issue - don't we need fat in our diets (especially men) for more than just energy?

    I will definitely give MyFitness Pal a try and log what I'm eating.


  • Yes you jolly well do need fats. A good balanced diet would be say 30/30/40 fats/protein/carbs if you are one of the carb crowd. I tend the other way and keep my carbs <30% and idelly around 20.

    2500-3000 cals a day is a reasonable estimate for men, although I eat less than that and manitain well.

    The sleep thing sounds like the main culprit tbh. Continued broken sleep really screws with your recovery. I had 3 children under 5 at one point which was a long string of bad nights. You just have to grin and bear it to an extent and compensate accordingly - be awrae of the faitigue, take rest when you can, take naps when you can, don't overxert yourself when you dont need to. Ths too will pass.

  • That's hard, but the diet advice, particularly ensuring you are eating enough, and healthily, is probably good. One other thing: if instead of just not running on your rest day, you could get out into the open and have a walk - nothing strenuous, and even if it is cold and wet, in the right clothes you can still enjoy it. And if it happens to be sunny, there is little better to lift the spirits...

  • Are you eating enough before your runs? To start with a nana was enough for me but these days I certainly need something more...I have found though that I am up and down like a yo-yo, I do think that's the other side of the runners high.

  • Interesting... I was really inexplicably down yesterday.... I do the 5/2 diet so was on a fast day and has done a run. Not a big run in any true sense of the word as I am redoing c25k after a period of injury, but I did feel whacked at the end of it tbh as it has been a while... Had a row with the hubbie, was blaming it on PMT and I worked it out and that didn't explain it... So I thought maybe I'm just exhausted. I did feel like I could just go to bed at 4 pm and stay there for the night. So what I did was eat a bit more...

    I ate a couple of treat foods, nothing too calorific, but something that would sate food cravings as well as input more calories. It was amazing how much better I felt after that. I put my PJs on and went and lay in bed for an hour (hubbie held the fort, but thankfully the kids are older now and I can do this more easily) and then got up to do tea and whatnot. Had a very quiet evening and then an extremely early night and feel SO much better today.

    I think you're exhausted. I think the run endorphins pick you up on run days and then you're just crashing on the other days. My little girl just didn't sleep, barely for a couple of hours at a time, for going on her first 5 years. It was hell and totally messed with every other aspect of my life, and has had lasting effects. Sleep is so important. So I get where you are coming from here.

    In my experience, time was the only solution (she now sleeps really late at weekends, but still doesn't go to sleep very well at bedtime, but she doesn't cry or wake us now at the age of 9, she just reads volumes of Harry Potter, etc!). So hang in there, this phase will pass. But in the meantime, I think you are expecting too much of yourself. I think you're doing too much of everything, too fast and too soon. I suggest: keep the running going as it will clear your mind and will help energy levels (but maybe don't push yourself so hard every time... it's a PB just getting through the day on no sleep right now, okay, it really is!); dry Jan is over so allow yourself some treats and a pat on the back now to replenish body fuel and energy levels; definitely the best advice is to monitor what you are eating - you're runs aren't excessive but you definitely need fuel for that level of exercise, and it sounds like you're not getting enough. Protein is great for energy. Milk/dairy can be very restorative for muscles recovery and has protein and fats which is great, and healthy too. I use myfitnesspal and find it incredibly easy and useful to use. You can input exercise and therefore monitor calories burned, and if you're building up a massive deficit due to exercise/undereating you can see and maybe add some things to your diet.

    Have a big dinner, a large glass of wine and an early night and I promise you will feel a bit better to give all of this a shot tomorrow, take care x

  • Thanks. I have felt a bit better this week. Mood has definitely improved. I've tried to eat a bit more fruit as snacks and I got a cheeky lie-in on Tuesday (7am, got told off for it though). The sleep problem isn't going away anytime soon though - we could have another two years of broken sleep if my daughter is anything like I was at her age!

    Bit of sunshine here today which definitely helps me... maybe I'm a SAD sufferer?

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