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Christine Luff

Why Am I So Tired After My Long Runs?

By September 1, 2009

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If you're training for a marathon or you just like to do longer runs on the weekends, you may find that you feel really exhausted after your long run. But is it normal to feel completely wiped out for a day or two after doing a long run?

You should expect to be a little tired after a long run. You've expended a lot of energy and put a lot of physical demands on your body. Sleep is part of the recovery process, so it's definitely important to rest when your body is telling you to.

However, if you feel as if you're sleeping away your entire weekend, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Make sure you're eating properly, especially after your runs. After running, especially a long run, you want to replenish energy as quickly as possible. Muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen (stored glucose) stores within the first 30 minutes after exercise. If you eat soon after your workout, you can minimize muscle stiffness and soreness, and help reduce your fatigue. Find out what to eat after your runs. Also, keep track of what you're eating and make sure you're following a balanced diet. You may not be getting enough iron or protein.

Get enough sleep during the week. Aim for 7-8 quality hours of sleep a night -- the right amount for most adults. Getting very little sleep during the week and trying to "catch up" on the weekends is not a good idea because it alters your sleep schedule. Your body is forced to adjust to these changes and, as a result, your quality of sleep is poor. Try to establish a more consistent daily sleep schedule. 

Make sure you're not overtraining. Running too many miles and not giving yourself any rest days will definitely leave you feeling exhausted most of the time. To avoid overtraining, don't increase your weekly mileage by more than 10%. Try to give yourself periodic "rest weeks" by dropping your mileage by 50% every fourth week. Take at least one rest day a week, by not exercising at all or doing a cross-training activity instead.


September 3, 2009 at 10:24 am
(1) jiang says:

Long run is the most challenging for me. Usually at the end, I feel ache in my legs and they became very heavy during last mile. I became a very very old person at the end. It’s the time I really felt the importance of sleeping. Usually all the aches will go away after a night of sleep. Also long run is the most effective way to increase my fitness level. After several months of long runs, I noticed some changes in my performance in other areas, such as long distance driving. I used to feel very sleepy and tired during the driving. But now I don’t feel sleepy at all. It’s amazing.

I have been running for 2 years, but added long run only recently. I really felt the difference. It’s the most challenging, yet most rewarding run.

September 8, 2009 at 7:19 am
(2) Craig says:

I find I always feel tierd after a long run of over 40miles. On even longer runs say 60 to 100miles I get to the extent that I want to fall asleep whilst on my feet, and have to fight against it to prevent doing so.

Of course your legs will ache, it cant be avoided. They will ache after an hour or so, probably loosen up again in the middle of a run and then deteriorate gradually in the later part, not to recover until you rest. …only to come back stronger.

September 13, 2009 at 11:09 pm
(3) Roy says:

I’ve been running for almost exactly one year and I don’t feel that I’ve increased my stamina or speed. I feel tired all the time during the day and I have a hard time going further than 4 miles. How do I bust through this plateau? I would like to be able to run 6 miles comfortably or at least increase my speed if only going 4 miles.

September 14, 2009 at 8:16 am
(4) running says:

Hi Roy,
Here are two articles that you might find helpful:

How to Run Further

How to Run Faster

Good luck!

September 16, 2009 at 12:18 pm
(5) the jogger says:

I have been having the same trouble and found your comments to be extremely helpful. Thanks alot! Roy, if you are feeling discouraged, please check out my motivational site: http://www.thejoggerlog.webs.com

September 16, 2009 at 1:38 pm
(6) running says:

the jogger,

Happy to help! Hope you are noticing some improvement.

Christine, running guide

September 17, 2009 at 6:06 pm
(7) Jiang says:

Hi, Roy. I am with you on that running doesn’t make you feel you have more stamina and you will still feel tired. It has been that way for me for a long time. For me, exercise has no impact on how I feel during the day for a long long time and I was very frustrated. If you read any books, articles promoting exercise, they all say that exercise make you more refreshed, etc. It’s not the case at all for people like you and me. We are born that way.

I tried a lot of other things such as swimming in the winter, ouch, it’s terribly cold. It did jolt me to life for a while, but still after a while it had no effect on how I feel during the day. Still I felt tired and sleepy. Sure enough, the winter swimming thing can’t last for long because it’s too tough for me.

I am getting better after I started increasing my distance beyond 8 miles. I also drink tea and coffee. Probably it’s because we are sitting in front of computer all day during working hours. I don’t feel tired if I have vacation and don’t sit in front of the computer all day.

It’s the sedentary work that make us sleepy and tired.

October 3, 2009 at 11:01 pm
(8) madabouther says:

roy, my advice would be to try to isolate the source of your strain. just pay attention to yourself during one of your runs. for some, it’s a mental battle, for others it’s muscles, others its pacing. in my case, i ran for many years before realizing it was my breathing pattern. i was always a relatively strong runner but i was puzzled as to why i was gasping after 1/2 mile even on easy runs! i found an article that explained “belly breathing” and the first time i tried it, i increased by 2 miles and felt way better than i did on short runs before. best of luck!

March 18, 2011 at 7:48 am
(9) SuppRatings.com says:

Long runs have lately been killing me and it turns out that I was actually low on salt while running. Try staying hydrated enough along with keeping electrolyte levels up.

April 27, 2011 at 6:06 am
(10) djw says:

Hi there, I am a regular runner and run upwards of 40k per week. Went for a run on sunday, got 11k in and hit the wall. I had to get my wife to come and pick me up in the car, ever since I have felt really weak and my legs feel like they will buckle. I have never had this experience before and normally run 20/25k with no side affects. Any ideas? It was a hot day but i had loads of fluids with me. Thanks

April 27, 2011 at 11:17 am
(11) running says:

@djw There could be a few things going on here. If there was a big change in the weather and it was hotter than you’re used to, you’ll definitely feel a lot more sluggish, even if you are hydrating. It could also be nutrition-related, like an iron or protein deficiency. Were you drinking sports drinks? You may have been low on electrolytes.
It could also be that your body is telling you it needs a break. If you consistently run 40K per week, it would be a good idea to take a down week every fourth week when you cut your mileage in half (you could always substitute cross-training for some running if you want), to avoid overtraining.

October 23, 2011 at 5:32 pm
(12) Ryan Critchett says:

Came across this article because this happens to me every now and then and I wanted to pin point exactly what it is. I eat great, I’m consciously sleeping really well (because I get how important it is), but I’m definitely running too fast, too quick. I need to condition my body for the kinds of runs I’m doing. Today, I ran a 3.5 at less than a 7 minute per mile pace. It wiped me out, regardless of water intake after the run, for about 4 hours. I had to sleep for a bit to recover. After the sleep, I was 100%. In fact, I felt like more!

March 24, 2014 at 2:57 am
(13) Sanjay Sanwal says:

Hi, i am a regular runner who runs almost 50 kms a week and out of which 20-23kms on Sunday. Usually i complete my run on Sunday without much fuss but in am getting bonked by 17-18 kms since last 2-3 runs.Please advice.

March 24, 2014 at 8:47 am
(14) running says:

Sanjay, are you eating during your long runs? Take a look at this article for some tips on how to take in calories during long runs:

<a href=”http://running.about.com/od/nutritionandhydration/f/eatontherun.htm”>Do I Need to Eat During Long Runs?</a>

April 22, 2014 at 12:04 am
(15) Bradley says:

Some people are just not cut out to be runners. I am one of those people. I have run off and on since 1977 and have always had to push myself more than other runners I know who always seemed to do it effortlessly. I have also found over the decades that it never seemed to get much easier for me, despite increasing my fitness levels. Sometimes I would go for a run after a solid year of training and it would be almost as difficult as a first run after a long layoff. I switched to strength training years ago and I adapted to that like a fish to water. I truly believe that people are genetically talented in certain areas and will always fail in other areas due to our genetic construction. Recent studies I’ve seen also support this. You may want to ask yourself if suffering to be a runner is worth it and perhaps you will be happier (and even fitter) with a different activity.

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