Running can be physically and mentally taxing. Training for a race requires long hours of running, pushing your body to its limits, and juggling a busy schedule. Most of us are not pro’s who can schedule our life around our running; rather we have to work to fit running around our life. It's no wonder that many runners eventually experience burnout.
Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress. It can lead to a decline in performance, motivation, and general wellbeing. Long-distance runners often push themselves to their physical limits, which can lead to fatigue, injury, and burnout. Gustafsson, Kenttä, and Hassmén (2016) found that overtraining and injury were significant risk factors for burnout among long-distance runners. This emphasizes the importance of balancing training and recovery to prevent burnout.
Here are some tips to help prevent burnout and injury as a distance runner:
Set realistic goals
Setting goals is important, but it's essential to make them realistic. Ambitious goals can motivate you, but unrealistic ones can lead to frustration and burnout. When setting goals, consider your current fitness level, available time for training, and past race performances. Set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals that align with your abilities and interests.
Vary your training
Repeating the same training routine day after day can lead to monotony and boredom, which can contribute to burnout. Incorporating variety into your training can help you stay engaged and motivated. One of the factors that can contribute to burnout is the monotony and repetitiveness of training, which can lead to mental and emotional fatigue (Rago and Selvestri, 2019).
Consider incorporating cross-training activities like cycling, swimming, or yoga into your routine. Mix up your workouts by adding speed work, hill repeats, and long runs at different paces.
At Golden Endurance we offer coaching services to help you avoid the monotony of training, set appropriate goals, and get variety in your training through strength programming.
Get enough sleep
Sleep is critical for recovery and performance. According to a study by Lastella et al. (2014) published in the Journal of Sleep Research, athletes who slept more consistently had better performance outcomes and lower rates of burnout. Getting enough sleep is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system, reducing inflammation, and restoring energy levels.
Everybody requires different amounts of sleep. The general rule of thumb is 7-9 hours of sleep per night. But this can be largely dependent on the quality of sleep you get: where you are in a training block, the stressors of the day, how the previous night's sleep went, what foods or substances you consumed prior to sleeping, etc.
Stress is a normal part of training, but chronic stress can lead to burnout. According to a study by Gustafsson et al. (2007) published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, athletes who experienced high levels of stress were more likely to experience burnout. Identify sources of stress in your life, such as work, relationships, or training, and develop strategies to manage them. Moreover, establish support networks to help you manage stress. This can be a close friend, family member, or coach that is committed to helping you succeed.
In conclusion, avoiding burnout is crucial for maintaining a healthy, sustainable training regimen as a distance runner. At Golden Endurance we work hard with our athletes to set realistic goals, add variety to training, and maintain constant communication. To learn more about overtraining, overuse injuries, and burnout sign up for our webinar series on overtraining at www.golden-endurance.com/events.
Gustafsson, Henrik, Kenttä, Göran, & Hassmén, Peter. (2016). Burnout in long-distance running: A self-determination theory perspective. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 38(3), 246-256.
Rago, V., & Silvestri, G. (2019). Relationship between Burnout and Overtraining Syndrome in Athletes. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, 4(2), 34.
Lastella, M., Roach, G. D., Halson, S. L., Martin, D. T., & West, N. P. (2014). Sleep/wake behaviours of elite athletes from individual and team sports. Journal of Sleep Research, 23(5), 611-618.
Gustafsson, H., Hassmén, P., & Kenttä, G. (2007). Stress and burnout in elite swedish athletes. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 29(1), 61-75.