An article about workplace burnout was passed along to me recently. Unsurprisingly, if you read the title of this post, I was very easily able to apply the signs of work place burnout to athletic burnout. The elements basically lined right up.
And that's probably pretty obvious to most people but what really caught my attention was this:
“Quite honestly in America we glorify stress,” Dr. Maslach said. “And that’s another thing that leads people to be quiet and shut up about some of the stressors they’re facing because they don’t want to be viewed about not doing their best.”
I'll get back to that quote in a few but, like... yes. That is #truth. While I've had fleeting thoughts about this, that quote really hit home for how I need to approach many, many parts of training with the athletes I work with.
You've only got so many matches to burn[/caption]
Do you feel emotionally drained? Mental game feeling off? How's your sleep? Are you always sick?
Are you having relationship issues?
Just not feeling yourself?
Answers to these questions don't always mean you're burned out but they can certainly point in that direction. Evaluating how you feel based on these questions can tell you a lot about what's going on in your life and how it's effecting you.
Another quote that hit me hard:
If anyone complains about it, she said, they’re automatically labeled a wimp.
I want to be very clear here. If you are working with me, I hope to never treat you this way. I strive to have as much empathy as possible for the athletes I work with because every one has different life circumstances and stressors. Some things stress some people and not others. I work hard to understand that about everyone.
Not being able to complete workouts, not feeling like doing anything, and feeling totally blah about something you're usually super passionate about is a sign. Pay attention to the signs. Tell someone you're noticing a sign.
*Breaks into song... "I saw the sign and it opened up my eyes, I saw the sign..."*
We all pay attention to road signs (well, most people), so why not personal signs?
Step 1: Tell me, or someone... anyone. Well, not anyone. Tell your coach, or a friend, or an advisor. Tell someone who helps you through your goals. They need to know. It's not worth it to keep all of that bottled up inside.
Get it out so you can figure out how to approach it.
Step 2: Make a change. The first change is usually a break or a reduced training load so the initial stress of "getting it all done", when you're not getting any of it done, can be lifted off your shoulders.
Maybe you have a goal race coming up so taking a break isn't an option you want to use. Ok, let's change-up the workouts. Let's put emphasis on one sports or on one type of workout. Maybe we move some of the typical schedule around. Freshening the schedule up can do wonders for some athletes.
Step 3: Talk about the long-term goals and how this feeling of burnout fits in with them. Have you been pushing too hard? Are you trying to fit in too much with all of your regular life stress? May you're building too fast and getting ahead of yourself? Are you repressing your immune system? Trying to get past an injury? Ask a lot of questions and apply them to the process of helping you meet your goals for the future.
If you want to stay happy and healthy for the future, you must think about these things. Even if you want to do one triathlon, one time and be done. I'm pretty sure you'll do some other athletic endeavor in the future, you want to keep your mind and body in a place that allows you to work toward those future goals.
Maybe you need a few extra days on the couch...[/caption]
When in doubt, BACK OFF. It's not cool to always be burying yourself. There is a reason the vast majority of Olympians are in 4-8 year cycles to qualify for the games (after all the earlier years of fitness building too). Good results take time. Most of that time should be spent not crushing yourself.
Put the ego away. Shelve it. The best athletes might have an instagram account full of epic-stressful workouts but what you don't see are the countless hours of non-epic stuff they do. For the 2 minutes of miserably awesome pain they show you on a social media post they are spending hundreds and hundreds of hours preparing their body for that.
When you see people pushing through, that is the fruits of their labor, not the glorification of their workout stress. You don't need to be always crushing it to be doing your best. Again, not crushing it all the time = actually applying proper stress.
This doesn't make you weak or lame. It makes you smart. In the end it makes you faster.
If you notice some of the signs above, it doesn't mean you should just keep pushing through and creating more stress. Burnout may likely be on the horizon.
Be consistent about evaluating your emotions and mood the same way you are about your workouts.
If you think you're experiencing burnout, you very well might be. Talk to me about it, let's figure it out so you can still be successful and reach your goals in the future.
Working to avoid burnout, today is a good day.
March 13, 2021