It’s no secret I’ve been struggling through my current training cycle. In fact, in my last two runfessions (July and August), I made mention of how difficult training was becoming. Burnout has been a constant worry of mine for the last few months.
I finally decided to do something about it. A switch flipped inside of me and I decided not to let burnout get the best of me. If you read my recent training post, you’ll know that I’m done with excuses. I was tired of feeling lousy, being exhausted, and not having any motivation. But not everyone’s like me. For some people, burnout is harder to combat. It’s not always so easy to just say, “nope, no burnout for me.” So what does one do if they’re suffering from potential burnout?
First, what is burnout?
Burnout can manifest physically, mentally, or both. When burnout is physical, a runner is unable to maintain pace, achieve workouts, could perhaps gain weight, or experience sleeplessness and fatigue. As a mental issue, burnout can show up as lack of motivation, anxiety, or boredom, among others.
Burnout can happen any time but usually occurs during peak weeks of training or during a particularly hard training cycle. It can also arise as a result of training for too many races in a short period of time. Read more about runner’s burnout here.
I have not listed all potential symptoms of burnout. If you are concerned about potential burnout, please consult with your coach, trainer, or physician. I am not a doctor.
6 Ways to Block the Running Burnout Before it Becomes a Problem
So what can you do to mitigate symptoms of burnout before it becomes a real issue?
1. Grab a mantra and use it.
It’s all well and good to have a mantra for when training gets tough, but if you don’t actually use said mantra when you need it, it doesn’t do you much good. Grab a mantra from this list and keep it in your back pocket. If you find yourself needing a pick-me-up, read the mantra. Internalize the mantra. Use the mantra.
My favorite mantra is “no excuses.” When I get in a rut, I realize I just don’t have time for that sh$t. It’s up to me to either do it or don’t. No excuses.
2. Run with a friend.
Sometimes something as easy as running with a friend will reset your outlook on training. If you’ve been down in the dumps, invite a pal to log some miles together. Even a tough workout can become infinitely easier with some company. Don’t have a running buddy nearby? Join a local running group! You’re sure to find several someones to run with by doing so.
3. Switch it up.
Similar to running with a friend, sometimes a super easy fix to impending burnout is as simple as switching up where and when you run. The mind is a powerful thing — by giving it something else to look at and process, or changing the time of day you do your training, you may find your mental state more stable and satisfied. New routes mean new trees, new homes, new elevation. All of these contribute to a stimulated mind. And a stimulated mind is a happy mind.
4. Catch some Zzzz’s.
Burnout can happen for a multitude of reasons but one that cannot be overlooked is inadequate rest. If you aren’t giving your body enough time to heal and repair after training, you won’t have enough energy for your training runs. When you don’t have enough energy, your cortisol levels could skyrocket. High cortisol levels = non-restful sleep. It’s easy to see how lack of sleep can become quite a vicious cycle.
Additionally, there’s a mountain of evidence that supports the notion that being plugged in just before lights out may be harmful to human sleep cycles. Blue lights from electronics are known to disrupt the hormones responsible for quality sleep. I’ve found reading a real, paper book is the best way for me to unwind and fall into a deep sleep. The nights I stay up to watch TV with my husband are the nights I don’t sleep well at all. But when I read a book, I snooze soundly.
5. Unplug on the run.
Running without any electronic feedback can be a beautiful thing. After weeks and months of knowing every little thing about your runs can wear on you mentally. Sometimes not knowing your pace, not knowing how far you’ve run, and frankly not caring, can be enough to reset your training and get you back into a good headspace. Unless I’m doing a pace-specific run, I don’t pay much attention to my paces on my watch. I’ll look at the end but definitely not during. It helps.
6. When in doubt, take some time off.
If you’re in the throes of a grueling training cycle and your heart just isn’t in it, there’s no shame in taking a few days off. I highly advise talking to your coach before getting to this point because he/she will be able to steer you in the right direction. But if you don’t have a coach and just need a way to feel better, take a few days off. It’s not going to completely derail your training. Most of the time, a few days off is actually a good thing.
When it comes to burnout, I’m not in the clear completely. I imagine with my training load increasing over the next few weeks, I’ll begin questioning my sanity a few more times. But I’m not a quitter and I refuse to let burnout takeover my life. By focusing on what I can accomplish and the days I’m feeling great, I’ll be able to move forward through training with no excuses.
If you truly feel like you’re burning out, it’s worth mentioning to your coach or trainer. He/she will be able to help you work through it to make sure you still accomplish your goals.
What’s one way you relax or reset when you start feeling overly tired from training?
What’s the longest you’ve taken off during a training cycle?
Linking up with Wild Workout Wednesdays.