No Energy While Running – Help!?

Folks, I need your counsel. It’s now been over a week since I dropped out a third of the way into Hellgate and I’m still not at 100%. Nowhere near it. I went to the VHTRC fatass 50k this weekend, turned around at 10 miles and walked most of the 4 miles back to the previous aid station where I dropped. Yet again, I had nothing in my tank. Similarly, last Monday, while running the 6.5 miles home from work I had to stop and walk a flat stretch about 5k into the run. Just sitting here at work today, I feel weak – even my barely existent triceps are tired for no reason. When my tank hits zero while running it’s very much like the feeling I had sporadically for a few months following my first 100 (Western States 2004) and to a lesser extent following one or two other 100s. I need to stress that my legs don’t feel tired or overtrained at the moment; rather, when things go wrong on a run (and they don’t go wrong on every run), it’s a body-wide exhaustion. The sort of exhaustion that had me literally laying down and curling up in the leaves on the side of the trail multiple times on Saturday.

Obviously something is wrong with me, I just don’t know what it is. Yes, I ran three 50 milers at a decent clip over the span of 15 days (1, 2, 3). That might have something to do with it. Ok, that might have a lot to do with it, but it’s also worth noting that I’ve been working many 12 +/- days of late and have been dealing with some personal stress of late. Having previously dealt with depression, I am careful to look in that direction when I’m tired or blasé, but I’m not depressed at the moment. Likewise, work stress have wiped me out before, but even though I’ve been really busy at work of late, I’ve been doing a great job of not stressing about it.

So, any thoughts as to what is wrong with me or what specifically has me feel so weak running wise. What should I do? Should I stop running entirely for a couple weeks? Would I still recover if I cut out long runs and continue avoiding hard runs, but keep running an easy 5 to 7 miles most days?

There are 14 comments

  1. Anonymous

    Lots of prolonged physical (races) and emotional (work) stress leading to extreme fatigue… Let me guess: you're also craving a lot of sweets and fatty foods, and you're noticing that you're putting on a little weight, but it's pretty much all around your abdomen. Sounds like a hormonal thing. Your thyroids and adreanal glands are probably so worked down that they are taking a few sick days.If that's the case, you're not going to do yourself any good by trying to force yourself to run. Give your body a chance to catch up with itself. Priority #1 should be getting enough sleep and rest. You might feel lousy if you don't do any physical activity at all, so if you have time, take a walk. Not a run, or a power walk… Just a walk. Fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes, just around the neighborhood, keep the heartrate low. A week or two off in December can only do you good.

  2. Trail Goat

    Anon, I'm looking like a ballerina in a tutu – poofy in the middle and skinny everywhere else. I've been leaning towards endocrine fatigue as the likely culprit. Definitely been eating more fat than normal… more sweets, too, but mostly because they're around this time of yearly. Thanks for the input,Fatty McTubberson

  3. AnthonyP

    B – I have to agree with Anon. You have been going at a high level of physical effort for a majority of the year. I also know what you are talking about work-wise – you know I am an attorney as well, and the end of the year can get nuts (let alone the day to day).I ran into a similar situation at the end of 2006 after logging 3 marathons, a half marathon, and 2 50-milers in an 8 week period. I took about 2 weeks off and felt much better.You need to take a week or two off (as Anon said) and enjoy the holidays. Get as much sleep as you can…this phase shall pass.Tony

  4. Anonymous

    Goat –When's the last time you had a full physical? Maybe it's wise to get things checked out, just to be on the safe side. Although my suspicion is that just taking a bit of a break might fix you right up.

  5. Loomdog

    Not to be a jerk Buddy. But my 3 degrees in exercise physiology tells me your vegitarian ways (that are not super focused and planned like Jureks) and your recent 3 x 50 milers activity threw you in to a bit of anemia. If you don't take a super ferrous sulfate pill daily that is strong enough to make your poop black you need to and fast. Take it with vitamin C so that the coenzyme can help the gut absorb it. Trust me. 100% of my running friends that has been a vegitarian has become anemic at least once.

  6. Bedrock

    Bryon,First, I enjoy reading your blog and am sorry your having a tough time. Greg certainly knows more about physiology than I do, but I can opine on the stress thing. I work in investment banking and things have been pretty hectic of late due to the bad credit concerns that have been widely reported. I am in the midst of a break from running to rest up before cranking up training again in January. My energy has waned a good bit and I found myself in an overall funk.I attribute a lot of it to the work stuff as the stress just wears me down eventually. Plus, I miss my regular routine of running. However, I recently started riding the bike more and lifting weights a couple times a week. That has helped as an outlet for the stress plus it helps minimize fitness loss while improving overall strength. I can feel the energy levels starting to improve.Perhaps trying another activity (bike, weights, whatever) would help you as well. Others have mentioned the hard (and very impressive) efforts you gave back in November and that you may be just worn down. Who knows, the "change in routine" may help with the both the physical and mental stuff. It has for me. Just a humble view from the mid/back of the pack.Bedford

  7. CharlieM

    Another trail runner bites the dust. Only now, at the bitter end, do you realize the folly of your actions. Kick back, load up on grub and grog, write a book, get the heart rate back in tune, don't rev anything, and take the Metro to work. Cut back on work hours, and watch re-runs of "The Office" for an entire day.

  8. angie's pink fu

    i was going to say exactly what anonymous said. take it easy. let your body recover – that's the best, fastest and healthiest way to get back on your feet.

  9. AJW

    Sounds to me like it's time for more Jack and Coke!Seriously, probably fatigue in the endocrine system (Karl King's an expert on this). If you have some good multi-vitamins take them. Otherwise, find a way to re-charge those batteries with hikes, going skiing and working on your party tricks. Sure hope you're better by June 28th at about 3PM!

  10. Kim

    I agree with the others, your endocrine system has gone catty whampus right now.Chill out, run some if you feel like it, and don't stress the long runs.

  11. Trail Goat

    Thanks to all who suggested I get some rest – I wanted and needed to hear that chorus! Let my torpor and and re-ethanolization being!Tony and Bedrock, you're right that work can wear you down. Even if it wasn't a stressful work period, it was frenetic and probably enough to take some of the wind out of my sails or at least slow down my recovery.Bedrock, glad you enjoy my blog. :-) Thanks for adding your thoughts to the conversation!Anon#2, it's been at least a couple years since I had a full physical. Maybe mid-2005. If this feeling persists, I'll go get a full checkup with an emphasis on my symptoms.Loomdog, you're not being a jerk. ;-) I take an iron containing multivitamin (18 mg iron) every day and occasionally take a ferrous sulfate supplement (325 mg). I'll up the FeSO4 frequency for the time being.AJW, I've take a quick look at Karl King's 1999 article on endocrine fatigue. I might have to search the ultralist archives to see if his thinking has changed in the past decade. I'm looking for any ways to speed up the endocrine system recovery progress… and while jack and cokes will likely help, that's probably not the only solution.

  12. Lisa Smith-Batchen

    Sounds like adrenial fatigue.I have had this before and also several of my coaching students have had it before.Go and get some blood work done so you can start the new year off on the right foot. You have some big goals for 2008.Best to youLisa

  13. Trail Goat

    Thanks for the info, Lisa. I'm not one to go to the doctor's often, but am considering it for this. Not much can be done re endocrine/adrenal fatigue, but I can rule out anemia and the possibility of lead poisoning. (I've likely been exposed to lead in renovating my house).

  14. Brenda


    I have been searching for answers for about 5 years now on my complete fatigue during cross country ski races. The fatigue comes out of nowhere and puts me in survial mode to where I can hardly get to the finish line in the 40 and 50k marathons. My last race this past weekend was a 40k marathon and I went out conservatively and just like clockwork it happened about the 13k mark…like someone pulled my plug. My competitors started picking me off one by one and there was nothing I could do . I barley had the energy to put keep my skies moving forward. It got to the point I wasn't generating enougth energy to keep my feet and hands warm. My training has been good with it not happening during training runs but there was a year in the past when it did happen during one year of training. I bike all summer with canoe race training for adventure races. I do not overtrain as far as I know. I don't train anymore than my other training partners. This does'nt happen all summer. I also find have a lot of phelme when this starts to happen. sometime more than others. My blood work comes back all normal. Now I am also experiencing some shortness of breath after eating meals. This just started the last month or two. My blood glucose is a few points below the high range and I have been using a home tester the last few days and have been 103 before meals and and 124 after meals which seems to fall into range. Just to give you an example, a few years ago I did a training run with a friend two days before a short race on the race coarse and I was much stonger than her than two days later was the race and this fatigue hit me almost right away and she beat me by 10 minutes and I hardly had the energy during the race to lick my lips. I did have a big breakfast before the race which might had been to close to close so ever since then I don't eat anything 2-3 hours before a race. My diet has been very balanced and healthy over the last year or so. I have to admit that hasn't always been the case. All this to ask if you were able to figure out your fatigue issues? Thanks for any info you can give me.

  15. David

    I know this is a very old post but it describes what I am going through now at much lower miles. I was wondering if you ever found an answer to this?

Post Your Thoughts