This time of year always has me thinking about potential burnout. I have been training for well over 8 months out of the year and have had many great races but at some point you have to shut all systems down. I think I have reached that stage this year as we approach the winter months. Time to take at least 1 month off to let my mind and body recharge.
I recently read this article on Endurance Planet and it has given me some new insight on how to deal with "Burnout" and/or figure out the signs.
You know the saying that begins “Too much of a good thing…” Running is a beneficial form of exercise and a widely popular sport. But just like any good thing, one can have or do too much of it. When this happens, the runner may start feeling burned out.
This is a not uncommon obstacle that some very active runners face in the practice of their favorite sport. Ultrarunners are more likely to hit this slump because of the rigorous nature of the distance running events they participate in. A physical injury given the right medical attention will heal but a mental breakdown can be a more complicated problem.
Sources of stress
Burn out is the sure result of improper or overextended training but this isn’t necessarily the only cause. Cramming too many ultramarathons in a year may just as likely use up your physical and mental reserves. If you don’t leave enough space to recover from the last race and tune up for the next one, then don’t be too surprised if you’re feeling less motivated down the line.
There’s the stress of training and the stress of the event itself. But remember that there are other activities that surround the race which can just as likely be a source of stress, like the travelling involved for instance. It would be ideal if you can simply dedicate your life to running and have a support system that allows this but that’s not the case for most average ultrarunners. There are jobs to go to and friends and family to take care of. Without the proper management and balance, all that pressure can pile up.
Not being in the mood to run is one of the signs of burn out. Sometimes the stress comes from other aspects of your life and maybe going for a short training run might actually relieve it. But in the case where overtraining is the cause of the lack of motivation, forcing yourself to run is probably just going to make it worse. Knowing the difference between the two is naturally something only you can determine for yourself. The important thing is to learn when to back off and press the reset button.
Mix up the training
Rigidness and monotony is a great way to kill enthusiasm. You don’t have to follow the same route every time you run nor do you have to do it at the exact same time every week. Remember that there are cross training options available that can also serve to build up strength and endurance. If you’re feeling the slump then maybe changing some of the details in your routine or doing a different type of training entirely might liven you up again.
Add a social element
Running doesn’t have to be a purely solitary endeavor. Sometimes just running along with a like-minded enthusiast is all it takes to get you out of the dumps. There’s nothing wrong with joining a club, association or simply setting up an informal group. When you feel you’re losing your interest in running then maybe seeing it still burning strong in others could bring back your own spirit.
Once you pin point the source of your burnout it is important to listen to your body and let it recharge. One of the most important pieces of training that is often overlooked is the element of rest and relaxation. Take some time off and come back stronger and ready to go.