Running burnout, it is absolutely real. And I know you’re feeling it because you’re here with me in this video. So, today, I’m going to help you figure out how to recover from burnout and what to do to prevent it in the future.
Now, if you’ve not been with me on the channel before, hit that subscribe button, stick around with me for more episodes of what I call Runner’s High, this show, I’m Jesse Funk. And I share with you everything I’ve learned over the last 20 years of running competitively.
Now, when we’re talking about burnout, we’re also talking about overtraining, it’s the same thing. During your training, there are peaks and valleys of performance. The peaks come after you recover, the valleys are when you’re working out hard, and you’re making yourself worse, purposefully. And then you recover and you hit a new peak. Now, when you’re experiencing burnout or overtraining, that’s when you’ve hit a peak, you’re working, you’re hitting that valley, and then you’re not allowing yourself to recover, and you continue to push yourself further and further down, so your performance continues to suffer. You’re mentally fogged, mentally fatigued, your body can’t move the way you think it should, and you just feel like crap.
Now, there are a few reasons that you may feel like this, and let’s go through them now. Number one is, are you fueling properly? This is something that I talk about a lot because it plagued me as a young runner. I remember, I basically screwed up my whole senior year of high school because I wasn’t eating properly. Now, I didn’t mean not to eat properly but it was just bad habits of a high school athlete. I got up in the morning, went to school -- didn’t eat breakfast. So, then the first time I eat for the day would basically be lunch. I’d have whatever junky lunch we had; chicken patties and cookies. Okay. Great. I got some kind of protein and some carbs in, workout, dinner, rinse and repeat. And I pushed myself through this over and over and over.
On top of that I was taking on strength training that year, I simply wasn’t fueling my body enough. So, it’s something that plagued me and I always want to come back to that. Particularly, are you having a protein, but more importantly, because it’s such a fad right now, are you having enough carbs? As endurance athletes we need to take in carbs. It is effective to be an endurance athlete that’s low carb, you burn more fat.
There are plenty of studies that show if you’re on a keto diet or a low-carb diet, your body adapts to burn more fat as fuel. However, if you are focused on performance, we also know in those same studies, that when you’re trying to go for the high-ended stuff, that is when you’re trying to go fast, that that suffers because you don’t have the muscle glycogen, the carbs and the sugar in your muscles to burn that higher amount of fuel. So, yes, you can get away with it, but if you’re doing that and also doing high-intensity training, also doing stuff to try to be faster, it can be a big hindrance to your performance and can lead to overtraining.
One way to incorporate that food into your life, besides being meticulous about all of your macros, is to do something called intuitive eating. Now, it is just what it sounds like. You eat what you feel like you should eat, but it can be more complicated, and just as simple as that. If you want to know more about that, check out an episode of the Smart Athlete Podcast I did here on this channel, look up Sarah Schlicter back several episodes ago. It’s been a little while but she specializes in running. And we talk about how under-fueling really hinders a lot of her clients, and how she helps them get back into a good place. So, look that up here after this episode, hit subscribe so you’ll be around for more episodes of the Smart Athlete Podcast in the future.
But let’s get on to number two. And number two is going to be, are you getting enough sleep? This is also something I’ve experienced when I was in college. I was not getting enough sleep. Now, it was in part because the dorms suck in the college I was at. I stayed in the freshman dorm for three years because I roomed with an RA, another guy that I ran with. He’s my best friend. And freshmen suck. They’re loud, they’re obnoxious, and they stay up to all hours playing boom boxes and things. So, I wasn’t getting enough sleep, which meant I was irritable. It led me into more lack of sleep, and it was just this vicious cycle where I couldn’t recover and just felt terrible all the time.
Now sleep is a very complicated thing when you’re not getting enough of it. But I’ve done another video on how to get enough sleep previously and talked about it in other videos. So, you can check those out here on the channel again, subscribe after this is over. But the large part is, you need to develop a routine and figure out what your hindrances are when you’re not sleeping. Is it again, not enough fuel, because you need fuel to sleep. If you’re not eating enough, you’re not going to sleep well. That’s when we recover, that’s when our body uses all this fuel, to do the things that we need it to do. And on top of that, there’s other things that can be an issue, you know, blue light from screens, eating too late, whatever it is, there’s a lot of things to diagnose here. And I won’t go through all of them, but make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
The third thing I want to talk about is are you getting enough recovery time? Now, I don’t just mean week to week, which is important, but have you had a major race and you didn’t take enough recovery time afterwards? This is especially important if you’re doing half marathon and marathon because there’s such a toll on the body after that race. After that exertion, you need a little time off. Now, again, when I’ve spoken to ultra marathoners on the Smart Athlete Podcast, here on this channel, they often talk about taking even up to a couple weeks off after they do their races; marathons and ultras because there’s such a toll. And that recovery time is important because if you don’t get it, then you can end up back in those valleys we talked about in the beginning of this video.
It is the tendency of A-type personalities to want to push all the time because that’s how we get better. But you have to recover from that time to push to be able to push harder in the future. And that ability to relax can be difficult for people like us. So, that’s something you need to check. If you are not scheduling yourself enough recovery time, especially after big races, put that in.
I’ve made a habit of every year now, at the end of my year, after my A-race, whatever that is, I take three weeks off. I don’t do anything. And I noticed that my consistency throughout the year and my ability to improve quicker has actually gone up because I take that time off. I allowed my body to fully recover and actually decay a little bit; that’s the scary part. But you can do it, I promise. Allow myself to decay a little bit and then build back from there with a complete whole healed body after that big effort.
So, how do you prevent this in the future? Well, one thing you can do is take stock or your training log. You’re keeping a training log, right? You know what you’re doing from day to day, you write it down, you write down how you feel, that’s very important. One thing you can do with your training log, first, is keep it if you’re not keeping it. But along with that, write down how did you feel. Did you feel good? Did you feel bad? Did you feel bad but you performed? Did you feel good, but you were really slow? Write all of that down. On top of that, quantify it. Use an RPE scale, rate of perceived exertion. Just one to 10, how hard did that exertion feel?
Now, if you’re doing long runs, and you’re feeling like, man, it’s a seven, it’s an eight, consistently, then either you’re running your long runs way too long, or that’s a sign that you need to take a break or cut your mileage down to allow yourself to recover. One thing you can do is if you’re running on a four block period, meaning, you work out hard for three weeks, and then you have one week of recovery, move to a three week block. This is something I did a number of years ago. I isn’t right for everybody, but it is one way to recover more.
The other thing you can do with your training log is keep track of your resting heart rate. Take your resting heart rate when you wake up in the morning. A sign of overtraining, a sign of burnout that appears early on is an increased resting heart rate. And I don’t just mean one day, I mean elevated for a period of time. If you know your resting heart rate has been say 50 beats per minute, and now it’s sitting at 60 for a week, two weeks and it continues on, that’s a sign you’re not recovering, and that you need to take some time off. So, those are two kind of canaries in the coal mine, so to speak, that you can look forward to prevent burnout in the future.
Now, if you want other tips on how to run, how to be the best trainer you can be, again, subscribe to the channel, stick around with me, and I’ll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.