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Overcoming Mental Burnout

What is Burnout?


Burnout is is something that can impact everyone at some point in their lives. Burnout can manifest itself physically, emotionally, and mentally and is typically caused by a state of chronic stress. When at its peak burnout can feel suffocating, like you can't function effectively in any part of your life. Burnout is sneaky, and doesn't just happen suddenly, it is slow and compiling. Burnout sneaks up on you by coming in slowly like a small gas leak.


Running Burnout


Like in other aspects of life burnout can happen with your running as well. Burnout in running is when an athlete has chronically reduced drive or sometimes even a complete lack of drive to race and train. Mental burnout can be due to overtraining, but it can also be due to other things going on in your life as well. Burnout is running can be characterized by a number of symptoms including: lingering fatigue or the feeling of being "rundown", not being able to complete workouts, a weakened immune system, more aches and pains, a lack of motivation or drive, and a plateau or even decline in performance. Running burnout can be a real threat to running performance and at worst can lead you to quit entirely.


Signs of Burnout

Physical Signs of Burnout:

  • Chronic Fatigue

  • Insomnia

  • Increased Heart Rate (Resting and During Activity)

  • Weakened Immune System/Increased Illness

  • Loss of Appetite/Unwanted Weight Loss

  • Increased Number of Aches and Pains

  • Poor Performance During Workouts

Physical signs of burnout can also be cause by underlying issues such as anemia. Make sure if you're experiencing physical symptoms to go to a doctor to rule out any physical ailments that should be treated. 


Mental Signs of Burnout:

  • Increased Anxiety Levels

  • Depression/Feelings of Hopelessness

  • Loss of Enjoyment

  • General Bad Mood (e.g. Anger, Pessimism, Increased Irritability) 


Overcoming Running Burnout

Be honest with yourself and listen your body: You know your body best. If you're feeling constantly fatigued or notice any persistent signs of overtraining or burnout its best to talk to your coach and let them know. Your body is telling you that it needs a break. Just because there is a workout on your calendar it doesn't mean you should ignore what your body is trying to tell you.  Give yourself proper recovery time: Have you been running 7 days a week? Do you do hard efforts all the time? If so, you're probably not giving yourself enough time to recover from your workouts. Try incorporating a rest day in during the week or add in easy runs to help you recover from your hard efforts. Rethink current goals: If you've been training for the same distance for a while it might start to feel monotonous. This feeling of monotony can lead to burnout. Maybe you've been training for marathon after marathon, and the grind is starting to get to you, try training for something like a 5k or 10k. This will add new elements to your training that could brighten up your routine.  Give yourself grace and know this is normal: It is so easy to tell yourself that "you're not tough enough" or "you're a slacker" when a workout doesn't go as planned or if you miss a workout. It's even easier to do if you feel like none of your workouts have been going well, but even the most amazing runners out there have bad days or feel burnout. Don't let you bully yourself over a couple workouts, find the heart to give yourself grace and give yourself another chance.

Keep your running fun: Running is a hobby for most of us. We aren't getting paid to run, we run because it makes us feel good. If you're having a hard time finding the fun in your running you could try thinking of every run as a miniature adventure! Try changing up your running route, or run somewhere you love (e.g. a favorite park or trail). Another thing you could do is run to a destination, and have a friend or partner pick you up to change up your routine. Maybe you're into music or podcasts, you could prepare a playlist of new music/podcasts to listen to on your run to get you excited about getting out the door.  Meet new friends​: Most of us do our runs alone, which can get lonely sometimes. Running with a friend can give you a source of motivation and it can keep you accountable for your workouts. Local running stores are a great place to start. These stores often have running groups that meet weekly, which is a great way to meet new running friends.  Try something entirely new!: Have you tried everything you can think of and still feel burnt out? Then it might be time to step away from running, even if just for a little bit. This time off can be used to find a new sport to get involved in. Cycling and swimming are great cross-training activities you could utilize while taking a break from running. Or maybe you want to sign up for that new fitness class everyone has been talking about. Running will always be there when you're ready to come back.

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