How to prevent burnout from running too much

It can sneak up on you when you least expect it. And that is burnout. It happens to the best of us if we aren't paying attention because we are pushing to be the best that we can be.

It can sneak up on you when you least expect it. And that is burnout. It happens to the best of us if we aren't paying attention because we are pushing to be the best that we can be. But then sometimes we push over the edge and we reach this place where we just don't want to do anything. So today I want to go over what is burnout, and then, more importantly, five ways to prevent getting yourself into this burnout situation.

I'm Jesse Funk, the founder of and the host of this show, Runner's High, where we talk about everything running and endurance related. So if you like running, which clearly you do because you're trying to prevent burnout, you should subscribe. Stick around with me for more episodes every single week as well as the other show I do on this channel, The Smart Athlete Podcast.

That is something where you get to talk or I guess listen to me talk to really awesome pro and amateur athletes that have a lot of cool things going on. They share stories, anecdotes, all those kind of things. So you're going to want to stick around for that as well as more episodes of this show.

And one of the things I talk about with some of my various guests is burnout, how to deal with burnout, how to prevent burnout. Because for these people and probably you too, since you're on this video, we work hard, we want to be good, and pushing your boundaries comes with risks, and that risk is burnout.

So what is burnout? It's this kind of a lack of motivation. It's a deep, dark hole where you don't want to do anything. It's apathy for any activity that you've previously enjoyed. Now, so these things actually can tend towards depression. So it's good to try to separate the two and that there is clinical depression, but we're talking about burnout, which is a result of overwork, basically, whereas depression is a whole other thing and I'm not clinically qualified to talk about that. So find somebody who's got a license and can talk about that here on YouTube. There are plenty of good people.

But when we're talking about burnout, we want to prevent it because once you get into it, getting back out of it can be more difficult. Why? Because our tendency is to go, "Things aren't working. I need to work harder." Like when you're not performing, which is one of the signs you're in burnout. Like you have this apathy and then your body's not responding. Your tendency is to go, I'm not up to snuff. I need to put more time in. But that digs you down deeper into a hole.

So we want to avoid this. And let's get started on the five ways, the five things you need to do to prevent burnout. Number one, and this is easy if you've been on the channel, you've watched my videos about periodization. We can link to those at the end about how to set up a training schedule.

If you haven't subscribed, then check that out. This is an easy one and that's take down weeks, take off weeks. If you're trying to work hard every single week, week after week after week after week, eventually your body simply not going to recover. And that's where you end up in this place where you're burnt out.

It's your body signaling like, "Hey, it's enough. Stop it." Like I don't want to do anymore. I reached this place with swimming, so when I was trying to become a professional triathlete, I spent nearly ten years on that journey. I spent a lot of time in the pool because that was one of my biggest deficits, was really getting my swim up to speed.

Same thing, whether you're running or swimming doesn't matter. But I was spending a lot of time in the pool and I would I'd have trouble sleeping because I was spending so much time in the pool after pool days. My girlfriend at the time would often end up getting hit in the face when I was sleeping because I would be sleeping. And then like I was so overly tired, like my arms would flail, like I was swimming while I was sleeping, and then she would end up getting whacked and it was a whole thing and I had to cut back mileage.

Now, I was taking my recovery weeks, as I suggest, but it wasn't enough. And so this is something you have to judge in terms of your mileage and planning that training schedule.

For me, I just knew I need to put in this work volume. If I wanted to be a pro, it's kind of par for the course for that kind of thing in my body. Just wasn't able to hold up to it. But when you take that recovery week, you're going to cut back mileage 50 to 75% of what you're normally doing.

So say you're running 40 miles a week, that recovery week, you're going to cut back to like 20 to 30 miles for that week. I take a recovery week every three weeks, so we do two weeks on, one week off. And that's something I do nowadays because I find myself responding a little bit better when I get a little bit more rest. And I don't know if it's simply just something that I should have been doing always, or if it's a matter of me getting older and needing more recovery time, it could be a little bit of both.

Another way to do it is to do three, three, one. So three weeks of hard work and then one week of recovery. It really depends on you what you need to do, but taking your recovery week so that you can actually allow your body to recoup, not only is going to increase your performance because we go through peaks and troughs, so you work hard. You basically are digging a hole for your body where your performance will start to suffer eventually.

You take that recovery week and then it can overcompensate, your muscles can repair, and then you get a little bit stronger. Then you do that over and over again and you trend upwards over time. So preventing burnout by taking a recovery week does that and also should increase your speed by allowing your body to recover fully.

In similar fashion is tip number two, take a deliberate off-season. Now, this is something I was terrible at for the longest time from the age of 12 until the age of probably 24. I almost didn't have an off-season unless I was injured. And that really is a probably a good signal that I should have been taking in off-season. So that's tip number two, take a deliberate off-season.

It's just for me, easiest to work it in after your a race. So for me often that meant August with triathlon in the US at least national championships are in August. Now if you're doing long course and you're going 70.3 or using Ironman, the full Ironman, obviously Kona is in October, so you have to figure out what your schedule is.

But I find work up to that a race, get your taper, peak, do the race, you know, go all out and then take three or four weeks off, which will sound insane if you're not taking time off right now. But I can promise you that you will come back stronger for it.

Not initially. Initially. It's going to suck. It's going to feel bad because you're taking all this time off, but you're allowing your body so much time to recover after, at least in this example, like 11 months of pounding, you are able to come back stronger because you repair all those micro tears.

You know, you allow your skeletal system to repair itself. It's been trying to develop stress fractures or any of these kind of things, these little ailments, these little aches and pains. You give your body time to recover and then you don't end up in that hole. Again, managing and preventing burnout is really about managing stress and proper recovery.

So that's the theme of many of this kind of tips that I have today. Tip number three to prevent burnout is go the right pace on the right day. Another way to say this is don't always go hard. One of the things I've really been working on this year, especially as I've been kind of recovering from Achilles tendinosis and I've had to run reduced mileage is being very deliberate about running slow, which is difficult.

It's very difficult in general because we want to go fast, right? I want to go fast. I love the short races because I get to go fast, but then also because I've been on reduced mileage, I can't do the fast stuff. So I want to push a little bit. But you have to be very deliberate about going the right pace on the right day.

And this is something that I talk to about with Ironman legend Mark Allen on the Smart Athlete Podcast. I'll link to our conversation at the end of this video. But one of the things Mark and I talked about was this exact thing, and that's one of his keys to success.

Now, well, all of us become legends in Ironman champions by following that example. No, but we probably will do a better job of getting the most out of ourselves and preventing getting into this hole. Again, when we talk about preventing burnout, we're trying to prevent a lack of recovery and the inability to perform. So going the right hardness, the right effort on the right days is one way to do that.

So when you have an easy day, take it easy. It's time for recovery, active recovery on that day. Aerobic development and then in some ways this is kind of over the long haul, but like tendon development. Musculoskeletal development because of the pounding that we take when we're running, we need to develop those things and they take a long time.

Ask me about the Achilles tendinosis. I'm ten months in now of recovery and hopefully almost done with it, but tendons take a damn long time to recover so or build whichever way you're going. So going the right effort on the right days is key to preventing burnout. Number four and this is something you need to think about for your particular situation and each individual workout, and that is fuel properly.

It doesn't just mean taking fuel during the workout, it does mean the holistic picture, the whole picture before, during, after. And you don't necessarily have to take in fuel during a workout and fuel isn't always fuel. So I'm talking about, I guess, nutrition in general. So like if you're doing a workout under 90 minutes, then and it's over 30 to 45 minutes, likely you're going to be taking electrolytes in. That's where like something like what we've created the SYNC Hydration series comes in. It's a sugar-free electrolyte supplement that also has branch amino acids and some other good stuff in it.

It doesn't provide fuel, but it does provide some of those building blocks for your muscles as well as electrolytes, which help your muscles function. So thinking about do I need electrolyte replacement for very, very short stuff under half-hour, like if you're doing one of those easy runs and you're just taking like recovery, you're probably good.

But that doesn't mean that you can just go, I skipped breakfast and then I skipped lunch and then I went out for a run and then I tried to cram it all in at dinnertime. Doesn't work. Doesn't work. You just can't get enough fuel in our body. Takes time to digest things and process stuff, and we can talk about the kind of ways to strategize for different specific workouts in another video, because this one would get way too long if we really did a deep dive in that right now.

But know that very short stuff have particular nutritional needs or lack of needs, kind of the middling stuff, 90 minutes and below, maybe not fuel during as required, but fuel afterwards or fuel before probably electrolytes of some kind. And then the long stuff you're going to need to supplement during as well.

So if you're going 90 minutes, 2 hours plus, then you're going to say, okay, I have to bring fuel with me during this workout. There are some people that try to take the approach of like, I'll try to work on maximizing my body's fuel use by not taking fuel with me. It just it's a thing that people try and it basically never works. So just trust me on this one where you're going to want to take fuel for this longer stuffs. And the reason is, again, if you're depleting yourself too far, then you have a harder time recovering, etc., etc.. That's the mantra here. Recover, rinse, repeat.

My fifth and final tip in this video and this is one that is a little more esoteric, but I want you to think long term. This is something that if you're racing in school, incredibly difficult to do because you have races almost every weekend. The seasons are so short. There's three seasons or four seasons depending on if you're racing the summer. It's a constant barrage of races.

If you are out of that ecosystem is much easier to do. And that is where we're trying to be consistent over time, not cram all of the working into a short workload and then pop up in fitness and then end up in a bad place. So we want to think long term. And again, I'll use myself as an example. I've been really kind of bummed at the reduced mileage I've had this year because this is my 21st year running and this is probably the lowest mileage I've maintained for this duration of time since I was 12 years old.

So given that I do this show and this is the thing that I do, it's difficult, but then when I start thinking long term and I go, okay, so I'm 33 now. And I love running. I don't see that changing. There's a freedom to be found in it. The fitness is obviously good. I've enjoyed it since I was younger than 12, but just began running competitively at that age.

I want to still be doing this when I'm 80. At least that's my viewpoint. So I go OK. Do I want to push like this Achilles issue and then come to a place where, like, I have to have surgery or really mess it up and cause more issues down the line? No, I don't. Because one year I said I'm ten months in. Maybe it's going to take a couple more months. I try not to put too much of a timeline on it because I'm thinking long term, even if it takes a year, if it took a year and a half, not fun, but a year and a half in the scale of even my last 20 some odd years of competitive running.

But then scale that out to I want to be running 40 years from now, 50 years from now. OK. It's a little blip like. No, it's not what I want. And maybe it's not what you want to scale down. You're running a little bit so that it's more sustainable.

But if you think long term and you go, this is what I want to keep doing until I drop dead, basically, then the time scales that we work on start to seem a little more insignificant because it's hard to focus on the long term if we're so focused on today. But when you step back and you think about that bigger time scale, it's a little easier to take a breath and then go, Oh, like it's OK.

So those are my five tips to prevent running burnout. As mentioned through the video, I'm going to link here shortly my conversation with the infamous Mark Allen. Really great conversation. Start off this particular year. And then I also had that video on how to set a training schedule or what periodization is about. Those will be popping up on the screen here shortly. And if you subscribe, then hopefully I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner's High.

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