Monday, November 25, 2013

burnout

i've been thinking a lot about burnout and finally feel like i can get my thoughts down in writing. 

i mentioned a few weeks back that i was in a rut. and when the rut didn't totally go away, i started to panic inside. the fear of the word "burnout" was (no pun intended) burning in the back of my mind. its a word that i was dreading. the connotation with the word burnout (at least as it relates to running) was words like failure, done, forever - nothing in the positive realm. burnout seems like one of those things that other runners would respond to you with, "oh, oh my gosh, i'm so sorry" and then hope in their head it would never happen to them. i don't know why i have such a negative association with burnout, but i do. so you can only imagine what type of state i was in when i started to really realize that i was burnt out. 

when i first started thinking about burnout i realized for the first time that i had run a race every month for over a year. 16 months, to be exact. this is the longest i have ever run consistently in my life and the longest i have ever raced consistently. and racing for a year straight is taxing. that's a lot of physical and emotional stress that is put on the body. i didn't realize how much racing was taking out of me until i was training in between half marathons #1 and #2 this year. i had no breaks. i had no down time. whereas prior to this year, i had only done one half marathon a year and i gave myself a long recovery period after the fact. needless to say, this year i was exhausted. i realize now that i need that release after an accomplishment like finishing a big race. i need that mental release and my body needs that physical rest. 

i see so many of my runner friends and bloggers who can go out and sign up for a half marathon or marathon on a whim. they're running races back to back weekends. they're racking up race completion numbers like i've never dreamed of. and quite frankly, i've been jealous. i want to be able to sign up for a half marathon on a whim or do back to back big races. i want to be able to race year round without taking time off. i want to know that i'm a runner that can do that.


but the fact is, i can't. i have to accept that my body is not built to be a runner that can sustain that type of lifestyle. its evident in the overuse injuries i am dealing with now. its evident in the lack of mental focus and desire to get my last training runs in. who knows, maybe someday i will be that type of runner, but i have to focus on who i am now, and for who i am now it is not in my best interest to have that type of running lifestyle. 

when i was researching runner's burnout, i found so many articles on how to avoid runner's burnout, but what about accepting it? what about recognizing it as a sign that you need a rest and that's okay?

accepting burnout was a hard reality for me to face. but sometimes, we have to look at ourselves objectively - uninfluenced by our own perceptions of ourselves or how we think others may perceive things or us. this is what i had to do to finally come to terms with burnout not really being a bad thing. instead, burnout for me means a chance to rest, recover and come back stronger than ever. burnout, in a way, is what i need to become a better runner. i need this time to rest. i need this time to figure out how to prevent over use injuries. i need this time to adjust to a new job and the stress that brings. and i need this time to become more self aware as a runner. and while it may be frustrating, the more i learn to accept it, the faster i will be able to embrace what i need this time period for and the sooner i will be able to get back on the road again. 

what are your thoughts on burnout? have you gone through a burnout phase? did you embrace it? or fight it with all your might?




26 comments:

  1. Honestly...I'm a little bit burnt out...and I'm just embracing it. I know I just need to take the time to let injuries heal and to find my motivation again. Also...Sleep. I've only been resting for a week now and I'm itching to start up again, but I have to remind myself that I'll hate it even more if I'm injured or too exhausted to do anything.
    Just take the time for yourself and find some other things that you enjoy until you are ready to get back out there, both mentally and physically. I'm sure you'll be happy you took the time when you do!

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    1. I think my future self will be thankful of my current self and thats what I'm trying to keep in mind. I feel like I could sleep for ages still, its nuts! Half marathon training officially starts for me next week. I just hope I took enough time off :)

      Hope you're enjoying your rest period!

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  2. I am all to familiar with that word. It happened during my transfer from a junior college to a NCAA division 1 team. I ran in multiple races in community college and my coach for the school I was transferring to had me running a lot of miles and workouts, which he should have because that's what is required to compete at that level, but it was all too much for me and I ended up breaking my foot on the first day of practice with my new team...not fun! After coming back from injury I kept worrying that I would get injured again and also worrying that I just wasn't cut out to be that type of runner, which also made me feel like a failure because if other girls could run multiple races and still train hard why couldn't I? I realized that I wasn't taking my breaks in between seasons seriously enough and was jumping right back into running way to fast so I started slowly easing back into training and when I did that my performances started to improve. So now if I'm burnout, I have just come to accept that it's ok if I need to back off a little because in the end I will be rewarded for it. Enjoy the back off period, because I'm sure it will pay off in the end. :)

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    1. I can never imagine the training schedules of collegiate athletes. They always sound so intense with so many miles. I dreamed of being a walk on for cross country, but would have never been able to do it! I'm glad you found rest worked for you. I'm thinking it will work for me, too! A lesson we all learn at some point, I suppose!

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  3. Enjoy your break, you have earned it. I struggled with burnout in October. Every run felt like "I have to" instead of "I want to". After my last race in November I made a promise to myself to take the rest of the month off and run when I feel like it. It's helped.

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    1. YES! "I have to's"! It's the worst! Thats how the end of my training was for me. Brutal.

      I'm trying the "run when I feel like it" deal and I think it is helpful. I have let myself slack when I've wanted to and its taking a lot of the pressure off, which is a good thing!

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  4. I think 'burnout' happens to every athlete at one point or another, especially those of us who strive to expand our limits. This is especially true for runners as there isn't an 'off-season;' there is always one more race we can squeeze into our schedule.

    I agree that feeling burnt out isn't necessarily a bad thing. As you said it is a chance to really being a bad thing. Instead, burnout for me means a chance to rest and recover, as well as reflect on what you have achieved and what you are running for come back stronger than ever!

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    1. You're totally right. Running is one of the few sports without an "off" season. I don't know that I thought of it that way.... Most athletes do get an off season which is a chance to rebuild. I don't know why I should think I don't get that too!

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  5. Well hello kindred running spirit, I think you probably know that I totally relate ;) and I think for some of us we get so caught up in chasing PR's that we end up hurting ourselves in the end. It's great that you realize the need for rest and I'm pretty sure you'll come back stronger than ever in your next race.

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    1. Hello! I get caught up in the numbers. The pressure to hit a specific pace... it just weighs on me and beats me down mentally. I think I underestimated how much that impacts my overall performance and well being. For my training this time around, I'm going to have no pace goals. In fact, I'm not going to look at paces at all - for as long as I can avoid it!

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  6. I personally think that burnout is a part of anything that you do regularly. I get tired of eating the same things, watching the same shows, going to the same places. So of course I get tired of running. I see no problem in taking a break, doing something else, and then coming back to running when it sounds fun again. Of course if a race is near that's not always doable. But that's when I try to make running more appealing. I will schedule a run with friends, run somewhere beautiful, or bribe myself with a treat for after the run:).

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    1. I'm totally into bribery, thats a good idea. Finding new running routes seems to help, too.

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  7. I suffered from burnout a few years ago and tried to fight it. Eventually it was taking its tool on my body and mind and I decided after a lot of agonizing to take a month off of running, I did other workouts, but did absolutely no running and I was able to come back feeling more refreshed and ready to take on my running again. Good luck!

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    1. I love hearing burnout success stories! I thought burnout wasn't normal, but I'm hearing from so many that it must be, which makes me feel so much better :) I'm glad you were able to come back strong! I'm hoping to as well!

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  8. Wise words! You're so right- we need to learn to accept burnout and not compare ourselves to what everyone else is doing- there are always people doing more! But when our bodies say rest, it's so important to listen... I've gotten much better at being okay with backing off when I need to, but it's never easy!

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    1. Its not easy. I've been fighting it the whole way until this past week. I have been reading that elite runners take time off (and gain weight) and this is normal for them... so everything I'm doing (or not doing) I can bounce back from too!

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  9. I have had runners burnout for sure. After my full last year I took almost 5 months off of running. And then I took this summer off of running almost entirely. Both of them happened over the summer - I HATE running in the heat, and those were timed like that on purpose. I need to find my running mojo again...

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    1. I hate running in the heat too!! But I feel like running in the summer is easier because there are so many more hours of daylight to get a run in, versus this midwest winter we love so much ;)

      You will find your mojo again soon! Doesn't marathon training start for you shortly?

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  10. I love your perspective on burnout. I ran into this last year; after a solid 12 month race calendar I hit the wall. literally. I went out for a run one day and could physically run no more.

    Just like you, I wish I could just race back to back and be a machine. But learning what my body needs had lead to a much happier and enjoyable race season.

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    1. It is funny how when you run/race a lot, you think you know everything there is to know about running... but I'm always amazed at how much I am still learning.

      Hopefully you have gotten through your wall!!

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  11. I'm one of those people that race a lot, and I've found that a few things help. First, I take a week off after every major race, and indulge in all those things that I don't get to during training (sleeping in, social events whenever I feel like, etc). After that, I usually start back pretty slow. Second, I do lots of different types of races - triathlons of varying distances, duathlons, 5ks, half marathons, marathons, 10 milers... it helps to vary the type of training you're doing. I may be burnt out on running, but usually at that point I'm loving my swim and/or bike miles.

    However, my husband and I did 24 races in 12 months last year, and the only thing that really helped after that was 6 weeks of pure offseason (doing whatever I feel like when I felt like it) I hope you find your happy soon (and a break is not at all a bad thing if you need it).

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    1. This is great advice. I hadn't been doing a strong variety of race types - mostly just 5k and half marathons. The thought of different race type is more invigorating.

      So impressed that you were able to do 24 races in a year, although I imagine that would be exhausting.

      I am doing your last strategy - a few weeks off to do whatever, whenever. I am thinking this was the best route and hopeful I'll be back and at it soon!

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  12. I know exactly how you feel. I recently wrote a post about Being in a Rut. I think it happens to every athlete at some point or another. Burnout can really put a damper on training but you will overcome it. You just have to change things up every once in a while.

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    1. Sometimes having tunnel vision on your training doesn't help - you're right about changing it up. I don't like to do much other than run, but I will need to learn to step outside the run zone so that I can run more in turn!

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  13. What a great post, Alicia! It's so easy to get caught up in what other runners/bloggers are doing and want to do more to catch up with them. It's okay though to take a step back and do what's right for you. Some of the best runners I know race only a handful of times each year. It's what works for them. Take it easy for a bit, enjoy the break and you'll be back stronger than ever :)

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    1. Thanks, Sun. I easily get caught up in the excitement and adventures of others. But the older I get, the wiser of a runner I become and I will learn to find a race structure/frequency that I can thrive on!

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Getting comments feels as good as a freezing cold glass of Gatorade on a hot summer day. So don't be shy - share your thoughts & opinions! - Alicia